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Whitacre to retire from AT&T

Ed Whitacre announced that he will retire as CEO and chairman of the board at AT&T Inc. effective June 3. The 65-year-old is the longest-serving CEO in the telecommunications industry, having served as chairman and CEO of Southwestern Bell since 1990. When he took the reins 17 years ago Southwestern Bell was the smallest of the Baby Bells, but Whitacre helped steer the company into the most recent reincarnation of AT&T, now the world’s largest communications company.
AT&T’s COO Randall Stephenson has been named Whitacre’s successor.
“I have had the extraordinary privilege to lead this company for 17 years, and I leave with complete confidence in the future of our great company,” Whitacre said. “Randall Stephenson is an exceptional leader. He has a deep understanding of this business and a clear sense of where it should go.”
After beginning his career with Southwestern Bell Telephone in 1982, Stephenson became CFO at SBC Communications Inc., which in 2004 acquired AT&T Corp. and Bellsouth. He was also appointed to AT&T’s board of directors in 2005 and served on the Cingular Wireless L.L.C. board of directors from 2001 to 2006 and as chairman from 2003 to 2004.
“We have a well-planned succession process underway and it will be transparent for our customers, our employees and our investors,” Whitacre said.
“Our focus will not change,” Stephenson said. “We’re dedicated to the same vision, strategy and focus on growing and improving the business, and giving customers great products and services that have made AT&T a leader in nearly every segment of the industry.”
According to the Washington Post, Whitacre’s exit makes him eligible for $158 million for his retirement. The package reportedly includes “$74 million in nonqualified deferred compensation, $61 million from a supplemental retirement income plan and $22 million from a supplemental executive retirement plan and $1 million from another pension, according to a company filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.”
The Washington Post also reports that Whitacre could receive as much as an additional $106 million in “performance-based shares that have not yet vested, according to the SEC filing.”
Whitacre is also on tap to receive $1 million per year for three years as an outside consultant to the company.
In other news, James Ellis announced he will retire as AT&T’s senior VP and general counsel. Senior VP and Associate General Counsel Wayne Watts will replace Ellis upon Ellis’ retirement.

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