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AT&T to run wireless, media as separate units

Randall Stephenson, chairman and CEO of AT&T.

Randall Stephenson, chairman and CEO of AT&T.

AT&T will run its wireless and DirecTV satellite television businesses separately from Time Warner media assets following its $85.4 billion acquisition of the entertainment group, a source told Reuters on Friday.

Buying Time Warner gives AT&T control of cable TV channels HBO and CNN, film studio Warner Bros and other coveted media assets. AT&T's post-merger plans were earlier reported by Bloomberg News.

The deal, announced in October, is seen as a bold move by the telecommunications giant to acquire content to stream over its network. AT&T hopes the programming will give it a competitive edge in a saturated wireless market. The deal also brings a wealth of user data for more targeted advertising.

The reorganisation will leave AT&T executives in charge of the combined company. John Stankey, who currently leads DirecTV and other entertainment businesses, will head up the media division, and John Donovan, AT&T's chief strategy officer who oversees technology and operations, will run the wireless business, the source said.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson will remain chairman and CEO of the combined company after the deal closes, an AT&T spokesman said.

In an e-mailed statement, AT&T spokesman Fletcher Cook said no decisions on an organisational structure have been finalised and that Stephenson and Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes were still working on them. Time Warner did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bob Quinn, AT&T senior executive vice-president of external and legislative affairs, told reporters this week that the company expects to close the merger by the end of the year. "We are just working through the process," Quinn said, noting it also needs approvals from some international agencies and the US Justice Department.

"All indications are that end of the year is definitely in reach." He declined to weigh in on whether the White House could seek to intervene in the merger as some reports have suggested, citing anonymous White House aides.

US president Donald Trump has been critical of Time Warner's news division CNN in recent months, calling the outlet "fake news". He had also expressed opposition to the merger during his election campaign.

A group of Senate Democrats including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Al Franken had also urged the Justice Department last month to closely scrutinise the deal.

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