×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

AT&T, Time Warner Extend Merger Agreement Deadline as Trial Looms

AT&T and Time Warner have extended their $85.4 billion merger agreement once again as the companies prepare for the legal battle against the Justice Department’s efforts to block the union.

In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing Friday, AT&T said the companies agreed to extend the deadline for completing the deal to June 21. The two had previously extended the agreement, originally set in October 2016, through April 22 in light of the prolonged regulatory review.

In November the Justice Department filed suit in federal court to block the merger on anti-trust grounds. The trial is set to begin March 19 in Washington, D.C.

The AT&T-Time Warner agreement called for AT&T to pay Time Warner a breakup fee of $500 million if AT&T was unable to close the deal. That’s a low fee, relative to the size of the transaction, and an indication of AT&T’s confidence that the merger would pass muster with regulators because the two companies have virtually no overlapping operations.

The Justice Department’s lawsuit comes amid a fraught period in Washington, with President Donald Trump regularly bashing Time Warner’s CNN for what he describes as spreading “fake news.” Trump’s animosity to CNN is seen as driving the Justice Department’s demand that AT&T sell either Turner, the division that houses CNN, or satcaster DirecTV as a condition of approval.

The Justice Department maintains the combination of AT&T’s wireless business, DirecTV and Time Warner’s content operations would give the combined company too much power to raise prices for pay TV service, among other concerns.

On Thursday, the D.C. District Court judge presiding over the case warned both sides to keep the sparring inside his courtroom, and not in the media.

“Let’s encourage those in the hardworking communications departments to chill out,” Judge Richard Leon said during a pre-trial hearing.

The fate of AT&T-Time Warner is being closely watched by the industry at a time when more M&A activity is expected among media players. Already, Disney has set a $52.4 billion bid to buy the bulk of 21st Century Fox — a deal that is also expected to face at least a year’s worth of regulatory scrutiny.

(Pictured: AT&T chairman-CEO Randall Stephenson, Time Warner chairman-CEO Jeff Bewkes)

Popular on Variety

More Biz

  • Leonardo Dicaprio Once Upon a Time

    Leonardo DiCaprio's Earth Alliance Commits $5 Million to Amazon Fires

    Earth Alliance, an environmental initiative backed by Leonardo DiCaprio, has committed $5 million toward the preservation of the Amazon rain forest following an alarming surge in wildfires. After launching Sunday, the organization’s emergency Amazon Forest Fund is working to support local partners and indigenous communities in their efforts to protect the sensitive habitats within the [...]

  • Harvey Weinstein

    Weinstein Can Get a Fair Trial in Manhattan, Says D.A.

    The Manhattan District Attorney’s office argued on Friday that Harvey Weinstein can get a fair trial in Manhattan, and blamed the producer’s defense team for much of the pre-trial publicity in the case. Weinstein’s attorneys have asked an appellate court to transfer the case — which is set to begin on Sept. 9 — to [...]

  • Leonardo DiCaprio Madonna

    Leonardo DiCaprio, Madonna Call for Action on Amazon Wildfires

    As wildfires rage at an alarming rate in Brazil’s Amazon rain forest, celebrities are using their platforms to bring awareness to the deforestation’s impact and to call for action. In the past week, stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Madonna, Cara Delevingne and Ariana Grande have taken to Instagram to express their frustration with the lack of [...]

  • 'The Durrells' TV Show

    Greece Sweetens Production Incentives as Struggling Country's Economy Rebounds

    It’s taken the better part of a decade for Greece to show signs of recovery from the crippling crisis that almost pushed it out of the Eurozone. Now, with the economy slowly on the mend, the government is doubling down on efforts to jump-start the local film industry, giving a dramatic overhaul to the incentive [...]

  • Warner Music Group Partners With Audiomack

    Warner Music Group Partners With Audiomack

    Warner Music Group announced it has entered a partnership with the music streaming and discovery service Audiomack, marking the platform’s first licensing deal with a major label. According to the announcement, the two companies will work together on content concepts and explore ways to break emerging artists, connecting music fans with rising talent before they [...]

  • Scooter Braun Congratulates Taylor Swift on

    Scooter Braun Congratulates Taylor Swift on ‘Brilliant’ Album and Campaign

    Two days after Taylor Swift fired off the latest salvo in her battle with Scooter Braun, the manager congratulated the singer on the campaign around her “brilliant” new album, “Lover,” which arrived last night. The message came after Swift said she will be re-recording songs from her first six albums, which are now owned by [...]

  • David Koch Obit

    David Koch, Libertarian Activist and Billionaire Philanthropist, Dies at 79

    David Koch, brother of Charles Koch and one of the owners of Koch Industries, the second-largest private company in the U.S., has died at 79. According to the New York Times, Charles Koch announced the news of his brother’s death in a statement. Though he did not attribute to David’s death to a particular cause, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content