- AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said the DOJ has never asked it to sell CNN in order to acquire Time Warner, but that he’s prepared to litigate if it does. The comments come a day after several media outlets reported that selling Turner Broadcasting, which owns CNN, or DirecTV would be a condition of approving the deal.
AT&T chief executive officer Randall Stephenson said on Thursday that his company is under no pressure from the US Department of Justice to divest Turner Broadcasting, the group of channels that includes CNN, if it wants to acquire Time Warner.
He made the comments at the New York Times’ DealBook Conference in New York City. They came a day after reports circulated that the DOJ had demanded that AT&T and Time Warner sell either Turner or DirecTV in order to get their $84.5 billion merger approved.
“I have never been told that the price of getting the deal done was selling CNN, period,” Stephenson said at the conference. “And likewise I have never offered to sell CNN. There is absolutely no intention that we would ever sell CNN.”
Among other comments, Stephenson said that a divestiture of CNN “makes no sense,” and mentioned that his company is prepared to litigate if any such formal demand is made.
The conflicting reports come on the heels of repeated instances of the president calling CNN “fake news.” Trump also criticized the proposed acquisition near the end of his presidential campaign, saying that “deals like this destroy democracy.”
Trump’s concerns echo those expressed by many critics of the proposed deal who think too much consolidation in the media and telecom industries is ultimately bad for both. Still, antitrust experts have said that on a strictly legal basis, fighting the deal might be difficult for the DOJ.
AT&T’s stock climbed 1.7% as of 1:53 p.m. EST on Thursday. Time Warner shares slid 1.1% after dropping 6.5% after the initial news on Wednesday.
- Markets Insider