Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images
Randall Stephenson, Chairman and CEO of AT&T
Gallant compared the saber-rattling over the Turner properties to President Dona’d Trump‘s earlier threat to pull the broadcasting license of CNBC-parent NBC over what he deemed as unfair news coverage.
Trump has a notoriously contentious relationship with CNN, which he often takes to task for “fake news.”
“We think AT&T’s merger approval chances would be further improved if there’s meaningful criticism in the coming days of Trump possibly using antitrust law to target CNN, and either the president or DOJ decide a court challenge isn’t worth it, especially with DOJ likely to lose the court case,” Gallant wrote.
The deal is valued at $85 billion and had been expected to close by the end of the year. Sources have told NBC News that AT&T previously had offered to sell off CNN, but was told that won’t be enough. Turner Broadcasting also includes Direct TV.
The DOJ does not comment on ongoing matters and has declined comment on the AT&T-Time Warner deal as well.
“The Department is committed to carrying out its duties in accordance with the laws and the facts,” it said in statement. “Beyond that, the Department does not comment on any pending investigation.”
AT&T and Time Warner declined to comment.
While seeing the department’s case as weak, Gallant said the potential for a court battle could extend the timeline for closing.
“While we view the DoJ’s position as at least partially politically motivated, they do have the power to at least elongate the acquisition process,” he said. “Deal risk has clearly gone up.”
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