D.C. Circuit Court Blocks DoJ’s Latest Effort to Shut Down AT&T, Time Warner Merger

By A.J. Katz 

A D.C. federal appeals judge has rejected the Department of Justice’s most recent effort to shut down AT&T’s $85.4 billion purchase of Time Warner, the parent company of CNN.

This morning, the court shut down the DoJ’s appeal of the government’s antitrust suit.

“The merger of these innovative companies has already yielded significant consumer benefits, and it will continue to do so for years to come. While we respect the important role that the U.S. Department of Justice plays in the merger review process, we trust that today’s unanimous decision from the D.C. Circuit will end this litigation,” AT&T general counsel David McAtee said in a statement.

The DoJ’s appeal of the merger was filed in July 2018, one month after everyone thought this saga was finally over, and despite AT&T already having formally closed the deal.

On June 12, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon approved the AT&T-Time Warner deal with no conditions. Just two days later, AT&T hit the gas pedal, changing the name of the Time Warner assets to WarnerMedia. New CEO John Stankey has already held town halls with Time Warner employees from properties like Warner Bros., HBO and Turner (including CNN) to talk about AT&T’s vision for the new company.

This was the first major merger challenge under Pres. Trump, who vowed to block the merger during the 2016 campaign. As commander-in-chief, he has attacked CNN, one of Time Warner’s key properties, for its coverage of him and his administration.

According to Adweek’s Jason Lynch, AT&T kept its WarnerMedia assets in a separate unit until the appeal was finally resolved; it is already working to combine the strengths of both companies. “In January, AT&T began using data from Xandr, its advertising and analytics unit, to power Turner’s ad offerings,” Lynch writes.