AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson fired back at reports that the only way regulators would approve AT&T’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner would be if the would-be media giant sold CNN or its parent Turner Broadcasting, saying that he has no plans on getting rid of the cable news network.
“Until now, we’ve never commented on our discussions with the DOJ,” Stephenson said in a statement. “But given DOJ’s statement this afternoon, it’s important to set the record straight. Throughout this process, I have never offered to sell CNN and have no intention of doing so.”
Trump has repeatedly railed against CNN as “fake news” both as a presidential candidate and since taking office and opposed the merger itself at campaign rallies, but with similar vertical mergers having gained regulatory approval in recent years and the general pro-business slant of the Republican party, most observers expected the $85 billion deal to go through by the end of this year. Stephenson has also met with Trump multiple times.
But at an investor conference Wednesday morning, AT&T CFO John Stephens said that while he still expects the deal to go through, the finish line is not imminent.
“All approvals have been received, but for the [Department of Justice],” Stephens said. “We are in active discussions with the DOJ. Those are continuing on. I can’t comment on those discussions, but with those discussions, I can now say that the timing of the closing of the deal is now uncertain.”
“With regard to the transaction, everything continues as we’ve expressed in the past,” he continued. “If you look at this vertical merger, you can see that these types of mergers bring benefits to customers, and have very routinely been approved by the DOJ and the federal government. In fact, a vertical integration — vertical merger like this hasn’t been blocked for over 40 years.”