AT&T CEO Did Not Discuss Time Warner Merger With Trump
AT&T said their CEO Randall Stephenson’s meeting with President-elect Donald Trump touched on job creation, investment and competition, but the elephant in the room, merger with Time Warner, didn’t come up, according to Bloomberg.
“Mr. Stephenson had a very good meeting with President-Elect covering a wide-range of topics,” AT&T said in a statement. “AT&T’s proposed merger with Time Warner was not a topic of discussion. Rather, as the country’s leading investor of capital for each of the last five years, the conversation focused on how AT&T can work with the Trump administration to increase investment in the U.S., stimulate job creation in America, and make American companies more competitive globally.”
That portrayal was at odds with a description given ahead of the meeting by people familiar with the agenda, who said the transaction was set to be discussed with Trump, who opposes the $85.4 billion deal. Those people asked not to be identified because the details weren’t public.
Winning approval for the transaction is essential for Stephenson’s plan to turn AT&T, the largest U.S. pay-TV provider, into a media powerhouse, producing some of the world’s most popular shows and movies. One of Stephenson’s previous megamerger attempts, a 2011 deal to acquire T-Mobile, was derailed by the Obama administration.
In October, before the election, Trump said his administration wouldn’t approve the merger, saying, “It’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.” He cited the deal as “an example of the power structure I’m fighting.”
His options as president to block the merger are limited, especially if AT&T can avoid a review by the Federal Communications Commission by not acquiring wireless licenses Time Warner holds. The Justice Department could sue to stop the transaction, but it would have to convince the courts that the deal would threaten competition. That could be tough because AT&T isn’t buying a direct competitor.