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‘The government is clueless,’ Turner CEO John Martin says of the DOJ’s attempt to block the AT&T-Time Warner merger

“The theory of the case makes absolutely no sense,” Turner said at Recode’s Code Media conference.

Asa Mathat

Turner CEO John Martin thinks the U.S. Department of Justice is going to lose its bid to block AT&T from buying Time Warner — Turner’s parent company. In fact, Martin said, he thinks the government is “clueless.”

“As a person who’s actually going through the process and has been in depositions, the theory of the case just makes absolutely no sense,” Martin said at Recode’s Code Media conference in Huntington Beach, Calif. “In the history of the country, what vertical merger has tilted the landscape of the competitive environment? Let me give you the answer: Zero.”

The DOJ sued to stop AT&T’s proposed $85 million acquisition of Time Warner, arguing it would result in “higher prices for consumers and less innovation for millions of Americans.”

Martin says he doesn’t know what the government is worried about.

“In the same time in the United States, Netflix has added six million subscribers,” he said. “If you look at the market caps, which basically Wall Street values every single day what’s happening, AT&T since the announcement of the Time Warner merger has zero grown. They’re flat. I think Amazon and Google have essentially, in terms of market cap, the equivalent of AT&T and Facebook has added the equivalent of two times Time Warner.”

“If you’re the government and you’re worried abut fixing the competitive landscape, what are you worried about?” he said. “It’s a massive misallocation of resources and capital to fight this thing. They’re going to lose,” he said.

What if the deal doesn’t go through? Martin says Time Warner will be fine.

“Look, I think Plan B is ... I don’t know what Plan B is,” he said.

“We’re doing great, so yes, we think that an AT&T combination can supercharge our ability to get to our strategic goals,” he continued. “But if it doesn’t work, we’re going to be fine. ... Time Warner is a pretty stable, big, successful company. HBO is on fire right now. Warner Brothers had its most successful year in its history in 2018. We did too.”

“So, whatever happens, happens,” he said.

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