AT&T's Merger Boss Mocks U.S. Claim About Comcast Coordination

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(Bloomberg) -- An AT&T Inc. executive told a judge that the company’s contentious relationship with Comcast Corp. is evidence that the two rivals wouldn’t coordinate to withhold content from upstart distributors if AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner Inc. goes through, as the U.S. claims.

John Stankey, who leads AT&T’s merger-integration team and will oversee Time Warner if the $85 billion deal closes, testified Wednesday in federal court in Washington that dealing with Comcast’s dishonest claims about AT&T in some advertisements is like “playing whack-a-mole.”

“I’m not going to cooperate with someone I don’t like,” Stankey said under questioning by Daniel Petrocelli, the lead attorney for AT&T and Time Warner in the government’s lawsuit to block the deal. Stankey also said that coordinating with Comcast would be detrimental to AT&T’s plans to innovate. “We don’t want to cooperate with Comcast and play their game,” he said.

Stankey, who said the merger would result in $2.5 billion in annual synergies, denied another key claim in the Justice Department’s lawsuit: that the combined company would use access to Time Warner’s popular HBO network to punish distributors who asked for arbitration in programming talks under a proposed deal to gain support for the merger.

“We clearly had no interest whatsoever in doing anything the government alleges,” said Stankey, who led AT&T’s acquisition of DirecTV in 2015. “That just isn’t gonna happen.”

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