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[NEW YORK] 21st Century Fox Inc executive chairman Rupert Murdoch made two calls to AT&T Inc chief executive officer Randall Stephenson to discuss CNN and whether there were plans to sell the news channel, according to people familiar with the situation.
Fox had no interest in buying the cable news network, one of the people said, declining to be identified because the conversations were private. Mr Stephenson reiterated this week that he wasn't interested in selling CNN and hadn't offered a sale as a condition to gain US approval of AT&T's planned acquisition of Time Warner Inc. The talks were reported earlier by Reuters.
CNN has emerged as a lightning rod because of criticism by President Donald Trump, whose Justice Department is reviewing the acquisition. As head of CNN's biggest competitor, Fox News, Mr Murdoch would have a vested interest in learning about Mr Stephenson's plans. Mr Murdoch is a Trump confidant, and the president has praised Fox News's coverage of his administration.
AT&T met with the Department of Justice's antitrust chief Makan Delrahim Monday and discussed the Time Warner deal, Mr Stephenson said Thursday. The CEO said he'd received calls about selling CNN. Such a move would make no sense and run counter to his plan to build a media distribution business, Mr Stephenson said.
AT&T chief financial officer John Stephens told investors at a conference on Tuesday that the timing for completion of the Time Warner acquisition was now uncertain. The Justice Department had asked that assets like CNN and DirecTV be sold, people familiar with the matter said previously. AT&T told its legal team to prepare for a court fight.