DOJ Appeal of Time Warner Deal 'Changes Nothing,' Says AT&T CEO

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“The DOJ seems very intent to appeal this transaction,” AT&T chief Randall Stephenson said on Friday at a conference in Sun Valley, Idaho.

“The DOJ seems very intent to appeal this transaction,” AT&T chief Randall Stephenson said on Friday at a conference in Sun Valley, Idaho.


Photo:

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News

AT&T
Inc.


T -2.11%

Chief Executive

Randall Stephenson

said his company won’t alter its plans for running Time Warner’s media assets despite a Justice Department appeal of the court decision that allowed the transaction.

“We think the likelihood of this thing being reversed or overturned is really remote,” Mr. Stephenson told CNBC Friday in an interview at Allen & Co.’s annual Sun Valley, Idaho, media conference. “The merger is closed. We own Time Warner.”

The Justice Department started the appeals process in a two-page court filing late Thursday, a move that will send the case to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. U.S. District Court Judge

Richard Leon

ruled against the government in June, writing in a strongly worded opinion that the department had failed to prove that the combination of AT&T’s television distribution system and Time Warner’s popular cable channels would drive up pay-TV prices.

The June decision allowed AT&T to close its $81 billion cash-and-stock takeover of Time Warner’s assets, which the company quickly renamed WarnerMedia. It also sparked a flurry of offers and deals among other media and telecom companies that continues today.

Comcast
Corp.

and

Walt Disney
Co.

are now in a bidding war for certain 21st Century Fox Inc. assets, a situation that only developed after AT&T won its case, making Comcast confident its bid wouldn’t face too much antitrust risk.

Judge Leon’s opinion focused narrowly on the complaint against AT&T, though Mr. Stephenson said Friday that the appeals court’s decision could have wider ramifications for other companies.

“A lot of legal minds say that this could be precedent-setting,” he said. “This really could end up solidifying what the law is.”

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