AT&T ready to fight USA on Time Warner deal: CEO

Marcus Newton
November 12, 2017

US Department of Justice staff have recommended that AT&T sell either its DirecTV unit or Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting unit - which includes CNN - a government official told Reuters on Thursday, in order to gain antitrust approval.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that Trump's son-in-law and a senior aide had told Time Warner's executive vice president of corporate marketing Gary Ginsberg to dump 20 percent of CNN employees over their alleged inaccurate analysis of the 2016 presidential election. "It was made by a man who's a very respected person, a very, very respected person". In a separate statement, DOJ's new antitrust chief, Makan Delrahim, said he has "never been instructed by the White House on this or any other transaction under review by the antitrust division". But AT&T has said it doesn't want to lose the all-news network in the deal.

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AT&T is preparing for a court battle if the Justice Department tries to prevent the $85.4 billion deal. As president, Trump has often blasted CNN for its coverage of him and his administration, disparaging it and its reporters as "fake news". As a candidate, Donald Trump vowed to block the deal because it concentrated too much "power in the hands of too few". "This way, at least you can get your word out. And likewise I have never offered to sell CNN", he said, adding that there was "absolutely no intention" that the company would sell the network.

Delrahim said he had not had any contact with the White House or the attorney general on the matter, speaking at an event at the USC Gould School of Law in Los Angeles later in the day. But government lawyers appear to have some reservations about the deal as proposed, and they could seek to force a combined AT&T and Time Warner to sell Turner. As the New York Timesnoted, Delrahim insists any decision would be made on the basis of protecting competition in the market rather than politics, though the intervention is a surprise given his "more free-market-oriented Republican views".

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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