21st Century Fox Inc . Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch induced two calls to AT& T Inc . Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson to discuss CNN and whether there were plans to sell the news channel, according to people familiar with the situation.
Fox had no interest in buying the cable news network, and Murdoch didn’t offer to buy it, one of the people said, refusing to be identified because the conversations were private. Another person familiar with the situation said Murdoch did express interest in buying CNN. Stephenson reiterated the coming week that he wasn’t interested in selling CNN and hadn’t offered a sale as a condition to gain U.S. was approved by AT& T’s schemed acquisition of Time Warner Inc . The talks were reported earlier by Reuters.
CNN has emerged as a lightning rod because of criticism by President Donald Trump, whose Justice Department is examining the acquisition. As head of CNN’s biggest competitor, Fox News, Murdoch would have a vested interest in learning about Stephenson’s plans. Murdoch is a Trump confidant, and the president has praised Fox News’s coverage of his administration.
AT& T met with the Department of Justice’s antitrust chief Makan Delrahim Monday and reviewed and considered the Time Warner deal, Stephenson said Thursday. The CEO said he’d received calls about selling CNN. Such a move would build no sense and run counter to his plan to build a media distribution business, Stephenson said.
AT& T Chief Financial Officer John Stephens told investors at a conference on Tuesday that the timing for finish of the Time Warner acquisition was now uncertain. The Justice Department had asked that assets like CNN and DirecTV be sold, people familiar with the matter said previously. AT& T told its legal team to prepare for a court fight.