AT&T could be looking to part ways with some assets including CNN after its $85 billion Time Warner merger is complete.
According to Deadline, management at AT&T is mulling the divestiture of CNN and celebrity news site TMZ after the Time Warner deal is approved. AT&T has said it expects the U.S. Justice Department will sign off on the merger and give its approval before year’s end.
As the report points out, CBS might be a potential suitor for CNN should the cable news network hit the market. CBS CEO Les Moonves said last month at Sun Valley that he would be interested in CNN.
CNN is a prize asset for Turner and parent company Time Warner. But the network has found itself embroiled in war of words with President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly called CNN “fake news.”
Last month, The New York Times reported that Trump could potentially use the pending approval of the AT&T-Time Warner merger as leverage in his war against CNN. The Trump administration may not be able block the merger, but one report suggested that the White House could insist that CNN boss Jeff Zucker be fired before final regulatory approval is granted.
Zucker, who was chief executive at NBCUniversal before taking over at CNN, a key piece of Time Warner’s media empire, has history with Trump. According to the Times report, Zucker hired Trump to host “The Apprentice” and after Zucker lost his job following NBCU’s acquisition by Comcast, Trump claimed he got Zucker his position with CNN.
Selling off CNN doesn’t align with comments that AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson made earlier this year when he suggested selling the successful network would be absurd since the network doesn’t pose any competitive issues.
"I don't know why we'd even talk about that," he told CNBC. "It doesn't seem relevant to approving a deal like this. What would be the competitive issue that you're remedying with spinning off CNN? There are not competitive issues with owning CNN."