EXCLUSIVE: Rupert Murdoch called AT&T CEO about CNN twice in the last six months

Rupert Murdoch telephoned AT&T Inc Chief Executive Randall Stephenson twice in the last six months and talked about cable network CNN, sources briefed on the matter told Reuters on Friday.

EXCLUSIVE: Rupert Murdoch called AT&T CEO about CNN twice in the last six months

By Jessica Toonkel

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Rupert Murdoch telephoned AT&T Inc Chief Executive Randall Stephenson twice in the last six months and talked about cable network CNN, sources briefed on the matter told Reuters on Friday.

According to one of the sources, the 86-year-old executive chairman of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc offered to buy CNN in both conversations.

Another source said Murdoch had “zero interest” in owning CNN.

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Representatives of Twenty-First Century Fox, AT&T and Time Warner, CNN’s parent, declined comment.

AT&T agreed to buy Time Warner Inc in October 2016. The deal has yet to be approved by U.S. antitrust regulators.

Justice Department staff have recommended that AT&T sell either its DirecTV unit or Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting unit, which includes news company CNN, a government official told Reuters on Thursday, in order to gain antitrust approval.

On Thursday Stephenson said he had no interest in selling CNN and that he was ready to defend the deal in court if necessary.

According to one of the sources on Friday, Murdoch called Stephenson twice unprompted on May 16 and Aug. 8 and on both occasions asked if CNN was for sale. Stephenson replied both times that it was not, according to the source.

Time Warner shares were up 4 percent in afternoon trading.

(Reporting by Jessica Toonkel; Editing by Bill Rigby)
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