Turner CEO says government is 'clueless' for trying to block AT&T-Time Warner

John Martin
Turner CEO John Martin spoke Tuesday at Recode's Code Media conference. (Asa Mathat for Vox Media)

Turner CEO John Martin had some strong words for U.S. regulators attempting to block the $85 billion AT&T-Time Warner merger, calling the U.S. government “clueless.”

During Recode’s Code Media conference, Martin questioned the logic behind the U.S. Justice Department’s lawsuit, which is due to be argued in court beginning March 19.

“As a person who’s actually going through the process and has been in depositions, the theory of the case just makes absolutely no sense … In the history of the country, what vertical merger has tilted the landscape of the competitive environment? Let me give you the answer: Zero,” said Martin.

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Like AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson did earlier this week, Martin also suggested Amazon, Facebook, Google and Netflix are perhaps the companies that antitrust regulators should be concerned with.

“If you’re the government and you’re worried about fixing the competitive landscape, what are you worried about? ... It’s a massive misallocation of resources and capital to fight this thing. They’re going to lose,” said Martin.

AT&T and Time Warner are currently gearing up for the legal fight with the Justice Department. According to the Wall Street Journal, AT&T is pursuing a somewhat unusual request to have the DOJ’s antitrust Makan Delrahim take the stand during the trial.

Turner admitted there isn’t much of a contingency plan should the lawsuit to block the merger prevail.

“Look, I think Plan B is … I don’t know what Plan B is … We’re doing great, so yes, we think that an AT&T combination can supercharge our ability to get to our strategic goals … But if it doesn’t work, we’re going to be fine … Time Warner is a pretty stable, big, successful company. HBO is on fire right now. Warner Brothers had its most successful year in its history in 2018. We did too,” said Martin.

Somewhat surprisingly, Martin elsewhere in the discussion disparaged AT&T’s virtual MVPD DirecTV Now, calling it a “money-losing business.”