Personnel File: AT&T, Southwest Airlines Name New Executives

The telecom giant names Brian Lesser to lead advertising and analytics business, while Southwest taps Thomas Merritt to head IT and infrastructure.

Two major Dallas-based companies have announced the hiring of executives who will be charged with leading critical technology and creative components of the businesses.

AT&T Inc. has named Brian Lesser to lead and build an advertising and analytics business using the company’s unique customer data and growing content assets. Southwest Airlines named Thomas Merritt as vice president of technology, IT, and infrastructure services.


Brian Lesser

Lesser will be CEO of the business unit and will report to AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson, the company said. Lesser joins AT&T from GroupM North America, where he was CEO. 

GroupM is the world’s largest media investment management organization. which applies technology and data to maximize the value of advertising for many of the largest global companies.

“Brian is a terrific executive and one of the best there is in harnessing technology and data to create targeted advertising,” Stephenson said in the release. “Once we complete our acquisition of Time Warner Inc., we believe there is an opportunity to build an automated advertising platform that can do for premium video and TV advertising what the search and social media companies have done for digital advertising.”

Lesser said advertising is moving from broad messaging to more individualized content delivered across all connected devices. 

Thomas Merritt, Photo Courtesy Southwest Airlines

AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner Inc. remains under review by the U.S. Department of Justice and authorities in some foreign countries.

Merritt comes to Southwest with more than 30 years of technical and leadership experience, the airline said in a release. Most recently, Merritt was senior vice president of enterprise technology operations at Sabre, the Southlake-based travel technology company, where he led the architecture, engineering, and operational support for all infrastructure platforms.

“Tom has a vast amount of expertise and experience across several industries, which will serve us well as we continue to invest in and build our technology capabilities for generations to come,” Southwest’s Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer Kathleen Wayton said in the release.  

Prior to his time at Sabre, Merritt was vice president of architecture, engineering, and operations at Sears Holdings, where he was responsible for the architecture, design, and support of all technology platforms. And, he previously served in other various consultative, technical, and leadership roles at United Airlines, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, The Feld Group, and Bank of America.

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