By Nina Trentmann and Drew FitzGerald
AT&T Inc. hired a company insider to succeed longtime finance chief John Stephens once he retires at the end of March, in the latest change of guard within the company's leadership over the past year.
The Dallas-based telecommunications company Tuesday said Pascal Desroches would become chief financial officer April 1. Mr. Desroches is now CFO of AT&T's WarnerMedia division and previously worked in various finance roles at the entertainment company.
Mr. Stephens has spent about 28 years at AT&T and its predecessor companies and became finance chief in 2011. He oversaw the company's finances as it made big bets on entertainment, including a $49 billion purchase of DirecTV in 2015 followed by a more than $80 billion purchase of Time Warner in 2018. AT&T later renamed the film-and-television business WarnerMedia.
AT&T bolstered its balance sheet during Mr. Stephens's tenure and refinanced a large chunk of debt it acquired with the Time Warner deal. It also launched new financial instruments, such as preferred shares marketed to mom-and-pop investors, in an effort to diversify the company's sources of capital. Mr. Stephens in recent months took advantage of low interest rates to extend AT&T's debt maturities into later years.
His departure follows other recent changes in the company's management, including the retirement of veteran Chief Executive Randall Stephenson, who was succeeded by President and Chief Operating Officer John Stankey. John Donovan, another contender for the top post who ran AT&T's telecom business, quit in 2019 when the company decided to name Mr. Stankey COO, a prelude to his elevation in July.
Mr. Stephens's tenure at AT&T was significantly longer than that of other CFOs at companies in the S&P 500 and Fortune 500, according to the Crist Kolder Volatility Report, which tracks executive moves. CFOs at those companies have been in their role 4.85 years on average, down from five years in 2019.
Also, those companies this year increasingly have turned to insiders to fill CFO seats, with 61.2% of finance chiefs recruited internally compared with 56.6% in 2019, according to the report.
Mr. Desroches is one of a few top executives at AT&T who started their careers outside the telephone business. The incoming CFO will face a range of challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic, including closed movie theaters and weaker advertising revenue.
Revenue in AT&T's latest quarter dropped 5% to $42.3 billion compared with the year-ago period. The company attributed a roughly $2.5 billion revenue loss to Covid-19, as theater closures shrank box-office receipts from Warner Bros. movies and wireless roaming fees dried up.
The company has cut thousands of jobs in recent months in response to economic pressure as well as cost-savings targets executives set earlier in the year.
AT&T declined to comment further on Mr. Desroches's future responsibilities.
Write to Nina Trentmann at Nina.Trentmann@wsj.com and Drew FitzGerald at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires