AT&T chief executive Randall Stephenson hopes to dive head first into the media and entertainment world, with his company’s pending $85 billion deal to buy Time Warner. If the merger receives regulatory approval, Stephenson and his phone and internet company might have to start doing business with the Roseanne Barrs of the world.
Speaking at the annual Code conference on Wednesday, Stephenson addressed how he views a combined AT&T-Time Warner dealing with talent, especially when they bring potential headaches to the company.
“It goes both ways, but the question is: How do you protect the creative culture, and one that may or may not be flattering to the parent company,” the AT&T boss said. “At the end of the day, you’re acquiring a company that’s been very successful, it’s been run independently. You’re going to have to be disciplined and let these businesses do what they do best.”
Stephenson said he trusts the expertise of Jeff Bewkes and the leaders at Time Warner to make the right calls. He said he couldn’t imagine getting involved in deciding whether to cancel “Roseanne,” but he praised how ABC and Disney CEO Bob Iger handled it.
Iger backed ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey’s decision to cancel “Roseanne” after the Barr tweeted a racist remark about former Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett, comparing her to an ape.
“I can’t imagine how you would not,” Stephenson said of deciding whether to fire the TV star and cancel her show. “Those are the kind of issue you could see bubbling up. But Bob Iger dealt with it and he dealt with it quickly and you have to admire how he did.”