AT&T closes $85 billion deal for Time Warner

Brian Roberts

AT&T announced Thursday evening that it has completed its acquisition of Time Warner, two days after a federal judge gave the telecommunication and entertainment giants the green light to go ahead with their $85 billion merger.

The ruling allowed AT&T to absorb the owner of CNN, HBO, the Warner Bros. movie studio, "must-see" shows and coveted sports programming like college basketball championships.

In a statement announcing completion of the merger, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said the merger will let AT&T create "the future of media entertainment". Once the transition is complete, he will report to John Stankey, AT&T's media CEO.

The deadline to complete the merger was next week, but the closing came swiftly after the Justice Department signaled it wouldn't ask the court to postpone the merger while it pondered an appeal of the judge's decision.

A Justice Department official said regulators will continue to consider a possible appeal.

The government could still appeal the decision. "We are still evaluating options".

AT&T had been anxious about closing its deal ahead of a June 21 deadline if the government won a stay pending an appeal.

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Leon took apart the government's case in his opinion.

Leon said the case fell short on all counts and warned the government against seeking to hold up the deal with an appeal, saying that would cause "irreparable" harm to the two companies whose tie-up had been delayed for a year and a half. AT&T was sued by the Justice Department, but won approval from a judge to move forward with the deal on Tuesday following a six-week trial.

The government may have a hard time winning on appeal because of the way Judge Leon wrote his opinion, four antitrust experts said.

"As an example of the power structure I'm fighting, AT&T is buying Time Warner and thus CNN, a deal we will not approve in my administration because it's too much concentration of power in the hands of too few", then-candidate Trump said in a campaign speech.

Now Playing: Watch this: AT&T fends off Trump's DoJ fight to block Time Warner.

The Supreme Court has not heard a vertical merger case since the 1970s, and antitrust lawyers are eager for the high court to clarify modern standards on antitrust economics and law.

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