AT&T said Friday that Randall Stephenson was stepping down as chief executive after 13 years leading the telecom giant and engineering the contested takeover of entertainment powerhouse Time Warner.

Stephenson will be replaced as CEO on July 1 by John Stankey, currently president and chief operating officer of the group known for its wireless and broadband operations.

The move culminates a succession process begun in 2017 and a five-month search process, the company said in a statement.

Stephenson's retirement comes less than two years after the company completed its $85 billion deal for Time Warner, overcoming an antitrust challenge in federal court.

The tie-up merged AT&T's wireless and broadband operations with the CNN and Turner cable channels, Cartoon Network, premium channel HBO and the Warner Bros. movie studio.

The merger was finalized in 2018 after a federal judge dismissed a US government antitrust challenge claiming the tie-up would give the company too much power in content and delivery.

AT&T rebranded the newly acquired operations as WarnerMedia and has announced its new streaming service HBO Max would launch in May.

Stankey, 57, has served in a variety of roles in 30 years with the company including: CEO of WarnerMedia and CEO of AT&T Entertainment Group.

"John has the right experiences and skills, and the unflinching determination every CEO needs to act on his convictions," Stephenson said in a statement.

Stephenson will serve as executive chairman until January 2021 to ensure a smooth leadership transition, the company said. On his retirement he will be replaced by an independent board chair.

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