AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said today that the company is at the "advanced stages" of negotiations with antitrust regulators over its $85 billion takeover of Time Warner, but was "a little disturbed by leaks" yesterday about possible divestiture demands.

Speaking at the DealBook Conference in New York, Stephenson reiterated that no one at the Department of Justice has ever said that AT&T would be required to sell CNN, nor would he comment on reported DoJ requests to divest DirecTV. He also said he wants to keep CNN "because I need a strong competitor to NBC."

More highlights:

  • Stephenson had his first meeting with new DoJ antitrust head Makan Delrahim this past Monday.
  • He also would not sell anything larger than CNN, such as HBO or CNN parent Turner.
  • "If we have to go to litigation, our preference is sooner rather than later. We're ready to litigate now... We'd ask for an expedited hearing."
  • Stephenson said the merger's small breakup fee was a reflection that Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes didn't believe the deal would run into regulatory trouble.
  • On media concentration: Stephenson says that AT&T and Time Warner are trying to keep up with platforms like Facebook and Amazon.
  • Talks between Disney and Fox "didn't seem irrational to me," but thinks such discussions likely won't become too serious until there is more regulatory clarity over AT&T-Time Warner.
  • "I have no reason to believe" that the DoJ is taking into account President Trump's animosity toward CNN.

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