AT&T and Time Warner could be facing more pressure from President Donald Trump’s administration as the companies pursue approval for their $85 billion merger.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, recently held a meeting at the White House with Gary Ginsberg, executive vice president of corporate marketing and communications at CNN’s parent Time Warner, to discuss CNN’s coverage of the president. The report’s sources said Kushner expressed concerns about what he perceives as unfair coverage of the president.
Given the president’s repeated accusations that CNN is "fake news" and tense interactions with CNN reporters during press conferences, it’s unsurprising that President Trump has issues with CNN.
Despite the president’s constant insults toward CNN, network chief Jeff Zucker said that a public opinion poll conducted in January showed that CNN’s brand has not been tarnished.
Still, the fact that a top Trump adviser would take the time to press Time Warner executives over CNN’s coverage seemingly has implications for the regulatory approval process that lies ahead for the AT&T-Time Warner merger.
Trump’s beef with CNN notwithstanding, some analysts feel that the White House won’t have much power to block the merger.
AT&T’s $85 billion deal for Time Warner is likely to go through, although it may come with concessions, including a possible spinoff of major Time Warner brands, Wells Fargo analyst Jennifer Fritzsche said in a research note.
“While we expect there likely will be concessions (possibly a CNN spinoff, and continued infrastructure investment by T), from a legal standpoint, we note that if denied this deal would be precedent setting given the fact that no vertical merger in the TMT space has been denied,” wrote Fritzsche, adding that, while many mergers cut jobs, the small amount of overlap in core business and expertise for AT&T and Time Warner likely means no major headcount reductions.
BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield also sees the deal going through. He told the New York Post that it would be a “novel interpretation of the law” should the deal be blocked.