AT&T refused to “listen to anybody” at Time Warner after buying it, ex-CEO says

Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes and AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson sit and listen during a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing about the AT&T/Time Warner merger.

Enlarge / Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes (R) and AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson (L) at a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing about the AT&T/Time Warner merger in December 2016. (credit: Getty Images | Mark Wilson )

Former Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes says that he and other board members were surprised that AT&T mismanaged the media company after buying it in 2018. Bewkes is quoted about the aftermath of the $108 billion merger in a James Andrew Miller book called Tinderbox: HBO’s Ruthless Pursuit of New Frontiers, which will be released on November 23.

The Wall Street Journal received an advance copy of the book and published an article today describing Bewkes’ comments:

While Mr. Bewkes doesn’t express regret over the decision to sell to AT&T, he said he is angry about how his team of top executives and the staff were treated.

Among the high-profile departures were HBO’s former boss, Richard Plepler. Mr. Plepler left after clashes over strategy with John Stankey, who was tapped to run the entity—rebranded as WarnerMedia—and now is chief executive of AT&T.

“The most disappointing thing to me about the AT&T merger,” Mr. Bewkes is quoted in the book as saying, is that he and his board thought AT&T “would basically leave our people alone.” That didn’t happen, he said. “We didn’t think they would go to such a level of malpractice as to not listen to anybody… even though they themselves had no experience in those areas.”

Bewkes suggested merger with AT&T

Bewkes was Time Warner CEO from 2008 to 2018 and was previously the CEO of HBO. He apparently proposed the sale to AT&T several years before it happened.

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