Murdoch Reportedly Twice Discussed CNN With AT&T CEO

11 November, 2017, 11:45 | Author: Leticia Walters
  • Donald Trump

Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch called AT&T Inc. boss Randall Stephenson twice this year to gauge the telecom CEO's interest in selling CNN should it complete its acquisition of Time Warner Inc., the cable network's parent company, according to people familiar with the conversations.

Gary Ginsberg has reportedly replied to Jared Kushner that Time Warner, CNN's parent company, would not be able to do that, The Wall Street Journal said, citing its sources.

Murdoch, 86, phoned AT&T chief Randall Stephenson on May 16 and again on August 8, both times asking if CNN was for sale, according to one source.

But AT&T is said to be reluctant to sell assets, especially Turner, which represents a significant portion of Time Warner's profits. "Throughout this process, I have never offered to sell CNN and have no intention of doing so", Stephenson said.

AT&T agreed to buy Time Warner Inc (N:) in October 2016.

A White House spokesman, Raj Shah, said that Trump "did not speak with the attorney general about this matter", and that "no White House official was authorized to speak with the Department of Justice on this matter". Other outlets reported that the Trump administration had demanded the sale.

It would not be the first time Murdoch has attempted to take control of CNN.

AT&T wants to buy Time Warner, which owns the premium channel HBO and movie studio Warner Bros along with Turner Broadcasting, so it can bundle mobile service with video entertainment and take online advertising from Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc. U.S. President Donald Trump, a frequent critic of CNN, attacked the deal on the campaign trail a year ago, vowing that as president his Justice Department would block it.

Nevertheless, a group of eight Democratic U.S. senators on Friday wrote to Makan Delrahim, head of the Justice Department's antitrust division, urging the department "to oppose any attempt by the White House to interfere with antitrust law enforcement decisions, particularly for political reasons". He has not commented on the transaction since taking office in January. AT&T told its legal team to prepare for a court fight. The deal, he said, would put "too much concentration of power in the hands of too few".

According to the report, Ginsberg rejected Kushner's suggestion, as "there was no scenario under which Time Warner would do that, one of the people familiar with the matter said".

AT&T chief financial officer John Stephens told investors at a conference on Tuesday that the timing for completion of the Time Warner acquisition was now uncertain. Sprint Corp. and Altice, the cable company, have both considered bids for the cable giant Charter Communications Inc.

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