AT&T chief denies Justice Department asked for CNN sale

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AT&T chief denies Justice Department asked for CNN sale

AT&T would still like to settle with the government if it can get a favorable deal, but the company will fight in court if the DOJ's demands are too high. "If we feel like litigation is a better outcome then we will litigate", Stephenson said.

"Everybody is sitting on pins and needles", he told CNBC's Andrew Ross Sorkin at the New York Times Dealbook Conference in New York.

"I have never been told that the price of getting the deal done was selling CNN", Stephenson says in the early going.

In a statement on Wednesday, Stephenson flatly denied that CNN was for sale.

Reuters reports today that the Justice Department has recommended that AT&T either sell off DirecTV or CNN if it wants to see this deal go through.

"We think AT&T's merger approval chances would be improved if there's meaningful criticism in the coming days of Trump possibly using antitrust law to target CNN, and either the president or DOJ decide a court challenge isn't worth it, especially with DOJ likely to lose the court case", said a report from Wall Street broker Cowen & Co. That much should hardly be surprisingly, as Time Warner and AT&T are two already monolithic companies, so having the two in talks to become one would definitely get regulators' attention.

"I miss the old horizontal mergers", Stephenson said with a rueful grin.

It's been quite some time since we heard about AT&T's planned acquisition of Time Warner, but today the deal is forcing its way back into the spotlight.

More than a year has passed since AT&T announced its plan to buy Time Warner. Stephenson said AT&T would ask for an expedited hearing in order to move quickly through the court system.

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