Rupert Murdoch Called AT&T's CEO Twice About CNN Sale

12 November, 2017, 02:40 | Author: Martin Tyler
  • Manhattan’s East Village. Credit Christian Hansen for The New York Times

CNN and its parent company Time Warner were in the spotlight this week over reports that the Trump administration wanted CNN sold as a condition of a merger between AT&T and Time Warner. Over the summer The New York Times reported that Trump aides discussed using the pending deal as a powerful form of leverage over CNN's coverage. The companies had been planning to finalize the deal by the end of the year, and just last week AT&T said it was confident it would win approval for the deal since it does not involve direct competitors. Though AT&T's CEO claimed that no such request had been made, CNN staffers told The Daily Beast that they are "stunned" and "scared" in light of the news.

"I have never been told that the price of getting the deal done was selling CNN, period", Stephenson said at a conference Thursday.

AT&T may choose to force the DOJ's hand by moving to close the deal, which could trigger a court fight.

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As U.S. wireless growth slows down, AT&T has been looking for ways to marry its nationwide wireless business with video, which Americans increasingly watch on the internet.

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.

He also seemed to challenge one of AT&T's arguments in favor of the transaction: that it now faces a competition landscape made up of large Silicon Valley companies.

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AT&T has argued against selling off either company's assets, as it believes this would undercut the rationale for the tie-up.

The deal is opposed by an array of rivals and consumer groups anxious that it would give the combined company too much power.

But AT&T is said to be reluctant to sell assets, especially Turner, which represents a significant portion of Time Warner's profits. "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. The Department of Justice said it does not comment on pending investigations, but that it was "committed to carrying out its duties in accordance with the laws and the facts".

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