A war of words erupted yesterday when news broke that the DOJ will only approve AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner only if it unloads Turner Broadcasting which is home to CNN. Now its no secret that Donald Trump is no fan of CNN, so some are wondering if this decision by the DOJ has anything to do with Mr. Trump’s distaste for the cable news network. A couple months ago AT&T CEO Randall Stephensen said he expected the deal to close before the end of 2017 and saw no reason why CNN would need to be unloaded and had no plans to do so. Mr. Stephensen repeated that position yesterday saying that he has no intentions of selling off CNN to win merger approval which means, the Department of Justice will likely sue to block the merger. So with Mr. Stephensen not willing to budge at the moment on the DOJ’s requirement, where does this leave the deal? There is some light skepticism that the deal wont happen being that both sides are standing firm. But Mr. Stephensen seems ready for a fight which he definitely has the resources for.
If the deal doesn’t happen and AT&T is forced to walk away with its head high knowing it didn’t bow to what some say is political pressure from the White House, the worst that could happen is that both AT&T and TimeWarner’s stock will dip and Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes won’t get to retire with the millions he stands to pocket if the deal were to happen. But nobody is expecting this to be the end result as the odds are in AT&T’s favor if this does indeed go to court. At the New York Times Deal Book conference this morning Mr. Stephensen said that he was never told the price for getting a deal done was selling CNN. Though there are many in the media and news industries rooting for AT&T perhaps due more to political leanings, there are others making the case, albeit thin, why AT&T selling CNN would be a good idea.
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