Speaking at a news conference in reaction to a DOJ lawsuit seeking to block the $85B AT&T-Time Warner merger, AT&T (NYSE:T) CEO Randall Stephenson said “We’re surprised to be here, and candidly I’m a bit troubled by it.”
The best legal minds in the country agreed this deal would be approved,” he said, and the government’s suit “stretches the very reach of antitrust law beyond the breaking point.
Stephenson pointed to media rivals he says have further reach: Netflix and 100M customers, Amazon video in excess of 60M, “Google and Facebook — literally billions of customers.” Turner (NYSE:TWX), meanwhile, has single-digit share of all media watched, he says, and AT&T has 25M TV customers.
“We don’t intend to settle this matter out of simple expediency,” Stephenson says, suggesting a quick resolution may not be on the way. The rule of law’s at issue, he says.
“Frankly, I don’t know” whether the lawsuit is about CNN, he says, pointing to an “abrupt change” in the application of antitrust law. But any agreement that results in the company forfeiting control of CNN is a “nonstarter,” and he argues that divesting assets from AT&T or Time Warner isn’t required by the law. AT&T will offer solutions that get the deal to closure.