Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T, parent company of CNN, “forced” out

Randall Stephenson, the CEO of AT&T, which recently acquired Time Warner (which owned CNN), is retiring, he announced, effective July 1, which was seen as a surpise, as Fortune reports, since AT&T had previously announced Stephenson would stay atop AT&T until at least 2020.

Well, now John Stankey, who was COO and president (who had previously been overseeing WarnerMedia) is the CEO, but Stephenson will stay on the board as executive chairman until the end of this year.

One prominent investor was against Stephenson, and is expected to have been part of what pushed him out, Fortune reports. And just last September, that investor, Elliott Management, attacked his plan to buy Time Warner, “AT&T has yet to articulate a clear strategic rationale for why AT&T needs to own Time Warner.”

Elliott partner Jesse Cohn said in a statement on Friday that “Elliott supports John Stankey as AT&T’s next CEO.” He also made clear that Stankey probably wouldn’t have been chosen without Elliott’s approval, saying, “We have been engaged with the company throughout the search process.”

Trump weighed in, apparently unaware Stankey already oversaw CNN:

In accepting Fred Dressler Leadership Award Award, CNN chief Jeff Zucker says “The truth is under assault; We are certainly not the enemy of the people.”

Thursday in New York, WarnerMedia news chairman Jeff Zucker was honored with the Fred Dressler Leadership Award at the annual Mirror Awards ceremony, reports The Hollywood Reporter.

Some of Zucker’s talent put together a tribute video, honoring their CNN boss.

“I said to him one time, ‘You are the only boss I’ve had who is ballsier than I am,’ and I really meant it,” The Lead anchor and Chief Washington correspondent Jake Tapper said of Zucker.

Chris Cuomo agreed: “He completely changed CNN.” He also ribbed him, saying, “One of his best skills is the ability to not seem as short as he actually is.”

Nodding to Zucker’s past comments about maybe seeking political office, Discovery CEO David Zaslav said, “The more awards he can get before his mayoral campaign, the better.”

“I’ve had this most blessed career, but none of it compares to the work we are doing right now at CNN,” Zucker said. “Sadly, the truth is under assault,” he said. “The press is under attack from the most powerful people in the world, and that is wrong and it is dangerous. These are the times that call for leadership. I am proud to stand up for the truth, I am proud to stand up for the free press. We are certainly not the enemy of the people.”

Zucker also apparently stepped in it when talking to New Day host Alisyn Camerota, who emceed the event. “I was gonna say that I love waking up WITH YOU every morning, but I want to say that I love waking up TO YOU every morning.” THR’s Jeremy Barr reports there were groans in the room when he made that remark.

CNN prepares to layoff 300: report

Just as CNN has adjusted to its place inside WarnerMedia, under its new corporate master AT&T, FTVLive today is reporting CNN is preparing to part with 300 staffers. Approximately 100 will be offered a buyout package, per the report, and 200 will simply be pinkslipped.

The changes are anticipated to affect the veterans inside the company, who have long served CNN.

Just earlier this morning, CNN finished the move of almost all its staffers to Hudson Yards from Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle, and some shows have begun broadcasting from there as well.

A source reached out to me to confirm the news, adding that CNN International chief Tony Maddox was among the ones accepting a buyout. “After 21 years I am leaving CNN. It has been the honor of my life to work for, and then lead CNN International. What a privilege to make a living doing such important work with truly outstanding people,” the executive said in an email to colleagues.

More to come…

Despite saying he wouldn’t spin off CNN, new filings say AT&T CEO floated idea of spinning network off

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson has said that he would never sell CNN as a condition of purchasing Time Warner. Yet a report from Bloomberg paints a different picture.

The AT&T executive said, “There is absolutely no intention that we would ever sell CNN.”

But in the Bloomberg report, he raised the possibility of selling CNN during a November meeting with the Justice Department’s antitrust chief, Makan Delrahim, according to the CEO’s deposition cited by the government in a court filing Thursday.

According to a transcript, he was questioned by a Justice Department lawyer about the meeting with Delrahim.

“And during that meeting, you raised the subject of CNN?” the Justice Department lawyer said.

“I did,” Stephenson said.

“OK. And you were the first one to raise the subject of CNN?”

“Oh, yeah,” said Stephenson, who went on to say, “I asked Mr. Delrahim, I think my language, this will be pretty close: ‘If I were to walk in here tomorrow and tell you I had gotten my head around selling CNN, would that allow you to wave this deal through?’”

CNN Boss thinks the government should focus more on Google and Facebook than Time Warner and AT&T

CNN Worldwide boss Jeff Zucker thinks that the government should perhaps focus more on the “monopolies” of Facebook and Google — and less so on the mergers of Time Warner/AT&T or Fox/Disney.

“Everyone is looking at whether these combinations of AT&T and Time Warner or Fox and Disney pass government approval and muster, the fact is nobody for some reason is looking at these monopolies that are Google and Facebook,” Zucker said. “That’s where the government should be looking, and helping to make sure everyone else survives. I think that’s probably the biggest issue facing the growth of journalism in the years ahead.”

The Trump administration has been a big critic of the potential AT&T/Time Warner merger.

He also added, “There’s no question in a Google and Facebook world, monetization of content is important. We are doing well. But we need help from the advertising and technology worlds, otherwise good journalism will go away. That’ll be bad for the U.S. and for the rest of the world.”

Zucker made his remarks at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

TBS manager, who never worked for CNN, launches discrimination suit against TBS & CNN

TMZ reports that a mid-level quality assurance manager, Wanda Byrd, is suing TBS for racial discrimination — and lumping CNN in with it, even though she’s never worked for the news network.

Both properties are owned by Turner Broadcasting.

Byrd says she was passed over for a promotion to a senior level position at TBS, and claims a less-skilled and qualified white man got it.

She wants to make this a class action suit against TBS, CNN and Time Warner, TMZ notes.

TMZ reached out to both TBS and CNN for comment but didn’t receive one.

21st Century Fox chairman: We’d never buy CNN

Contrary to what has been reported, 21st Century Fox executive chairman Lachlan Murdoch insists the company would never purchase CNN.

This comes in direct opposition to what had been reported by Reuters, citing that the younger Murdoch’s father, Rupert, had telephoned AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson twice, inquiring on whether or not CNN was for sale.

Stephenson, at the time, said, “There is absolutely no intention that we would ever sell CNN.”

At the Business Insider Ignition Conference in New York, Murdoch today said his father’s company “would never be interested” in CNN.

Trump distances himself from alleged DOJ mandate for AT&T to divest CNN

President Trump has distanced himself from the reports the Department of Justice is mandating AT&T sell CNN because of his influence in order to pass antitrust laws.

On Saturday, reports The Daily Beast, the president insisted that he “didn’t make that decision,” on requiring AT&T to split with CNN for the merger to go through.

He went on to say, “I did make a comment as to what I think. I do feel you should have as many news outlets as you can — especially since so many are fake.”

Trump’s remarks come on the heels of the news breaking that his son-in-law Jared Kusher urged a Time Warner executive to fire 20% of CNN’s employees, and also just days after reports surfaced that 21st Century Fox chair Rupert Murdoch reached out to AT&T twice about purchasing CNN.