’s longtime boss, got an unexpected phone call Sunday evening from a hedge-fund manager at Elliott Management Corp., one of Wall Street’s biggest and most aggressive activist investors.
The call was brief and cordial, but behind it was a stinging rebuke of the telecom veteran’s mission to turn the phone company into a media giant and leave a top lieutenant to finish the job. Investor
told Mr. Stephenson the hedge fund had concerns about AT&T’s strategy and execution, reflecting worries percolating around the company, said people familiar with the matter. Mr. Stephenson alerted his lead director.
The next day, Elliott Management issued a 23-page report that publicly questioned the logic of AT&T’s $49 billion takeover of DirecTV in 2015, shortly before cord-cutting accelerated, and its $81 billion deal last year to buy Time Warner, home of HBO and Warner Bros, only to replace almost all of its experienced entertainment bosses.
Elliott’s report Monday also questioned whether Mr. Stephenson’s presumed successor could successfully integrate the conglomerate into a force able to compete for advertising dollars against the likes of Google and win a costly battle for streaming supremacy with rivals like Netflix Inc. and