Regulators are demanding that AT&T sacrifice cable news powerhouse — and frequent target of President Trump — CNN in order for its merger with Time Warner to be approved, the Financial Times reported Wednesday.
“It’s all about CNN,” one person with direct knowledge of the talks between the company and Justice Department told the newspaper. That individual told the Financial Times that the deal would be approved if CNN were to be sold.
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.
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.”
The deal, announced last October, would create a media behemoth with assets including the Warner Bros. studio, CNN, HBO, the Turner networks, AT&T’s wireless business and DirecTV.