Rupert Murdoch twice discussed CNN
Rupert Murdoch telephoned AT&T
Inc Chief Executive Randall Stephenson twice in the last
six months and talked about cable network CNN, sources briefed
on the matter told Reuters on Friday.
According to one of the sources, the 86-year-old executive
chairman of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc offered to buy
CNN in both conversations.
Another source said Murdoch had "zero interest" in owning
Representatives of Twenty-First Century Fox, AT&T and Time
Warner, CNN's parent, declined comment.
CNN has become a sticking point in antitrust approval of
AT&T's $85.4 billion deal to buy Time Warner Inc,
hatched in October 2016.
Justice Department staff have recommended that AT&T sell
either its DirecTV unit or Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting
unit - which includes CNN - a government official told Reuters
on Thursday, in order to gain antitrust approval.
On Thursday Stephenson said he had no interest in selling
CNN and that he was ready to defend the deal in court if
According to one of the sources on Friday, Murdoch called
Stephenson twice, unprompted, on May 16 and Aug. 8 and on both
occasions asked if CNN was for sale. Stephenson replied both
times that it was not, according to the source.
It would not be the first time Murdoch has attempted to take
control of CNN.
His Twenty-First Century Fox made an $80 billion offer for
Time Warner in 2014 but abandoned the plan in the face of Time
Warner's resistance. At that time, Fox had planned to divest CNN
- which competes with Fox News - in order to avoid antitrust
There is no law against a company owning two cable networks,
but there is a Federal Communications Commission prohibition on
owning two broadcast networks. A Fox deal with CNN could also
raise antitrust concerns because of the market share that a
combined company would have among cable news viewers.
"I have been called and asked if I would sell CNN by
numerous people," Stephenson told the New York Times DealBook
conference on Thursday. But he added: "Selling CNN makes no
Fox has held talks in the last few weeks to sell most of its
film and television assets to Walt Disney Co, CNBC
reported this week, which would leave the company with its Fox
News, sports programming and broadcasting stations.
Twenty-First Century Fox would sell its stake in European
satellite broadcaster Sky Plc in a deal with Disney,
according to CNBC's report. Fox is trying to buy the 61 percent
of Sky it does not already own but the bid is strongly opposed
by some lawmakers and has been subject to lengthy regulatory
Time Warner shares closed up 4 percent at $90.60.