AT&T Inc. and Elliott Management Corp. are in talks that could lead to truce in the activist investor’s efforts to force changes at the phone-and-media conglomerate, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
The parties are discussing changes at AT&T that could include a commitment to review assets for possible sale or spinoff, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions aren’t public. AT&T could also shuffle its board, one of the people said.
AT&T and Elliott have been holding talks since the investor group announced about five weeks ago that it had acquired a US$3.2 billion stake in AT&T and was seeking reforms aimed at getting the stock moving. An agreement could come this month, the people said, though the negotiations could also still fail.
Elliott has criticized AT&T’s management, especially its decision to diversify into entertainment. Elliott also called on AT&T to consider unloading some businesses, like the Mexican wireless operations and the struggling DirecTV satellite business.
Elliott has a list of candidates for AT&T’s board and could nominate them as part of a proxy fight if the current talks fail, one of the people said.
The campaign has jarred AT&T’s unions, which fear that changes could affect tens of thousands of jobs.
AT&T has said it’s open to some of Elliott’s suggestions, but defends the company’s media strategy, including deals to buy DirecTV and Time Warner. Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson said AT&T is already taking some steps pushed by Elliott, such as repurchasing stock and selling noncore assets.
AT&T announced on Oct. 11 it would delay reporting third-quarter results until Oct. 28, five days later than first planned. The company plans to introduce its HBO Max streaming service a day later in Burbank, California.
The talks were previously reported by the Wall Street Journal.