According to two people familiar with the matter, with Discovery’s shareholder vote on the deal — which has already received regulatory approval from the DOJ — set for March 11, the two companies are preparing for a close somewhere between April 11-28. Though those dates are seen as the goal at present, there’s always a chance of missing due to potential holdups and the latter end of that range is the most likely outcome, per an additional source.
However, this range marks the most specific dates given by insiders close to the deal, who had previously targeted the month of April in general as the earliest potential time frame during which the transaction could be sealed.
AT&T has scheduled a virtual investor conference for the same day as Discovery’s investor vote, where the company says it will provide “additional insight and expectations for financial and operational performance of AT&T’s Communications segment” following the close of the WarnerMedia transaction.
Should the spinoff of WarnerMedia by AT&T close by that time, two sources say it is expected that Discovery and WarnerMedia would give some sort of joint presentation at the TV upfronts in May as the newly merged Warner Bros. Discovery — though both entities would still plan some separate component due to pre-existing and ongoing ad sales strategies. Discovery’s upfront presentation is currently scheduled for May 17.
Discovery chief David Zaslav will become president and CEO of WBD upon deal close. WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar is expected to exit. Among leadership that Zaslav needs to find post-merger is a new leader for CNN, following the ousting of Jeff Zucker after a company investigation found he hadn’t disclosed a consensual relationship with now-exited CNN marketing chief Allison Gollust.
Discovery, which will present its fourth-quarter 2021 earnings results Thursday, declined to make executives available for comment to Variety. A representative for AT&T referred back to the company’s guidance provided during its recent earnings presentation that the WarnerMedia parent company expects to close the transaction in the second quarter.
At the close of the WarnerMedia spinoff, AT&T expects to reap $43 billion (and the new WBD plans to assume up to approximately $43 billion of additional debt). AT&T aims to use the proceeds from the WarnerMedia spinoff to pay down net debt, which stood at $156.2 billion at the end of 2021.