Fox News boss Rupert Murdoch has on more than one occasion expressed interest in buying CNN, Reuters reports. Murdoch reportedly reached out twice to AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson in the last six months, and one source told Reuters that Murdoch asked about buying CNN in both calls. Another source countered that Murdoch has "zero interest" in buying CNN.
The report of Murdoch's alleged interest in CNN comes two days after The New York Times and Politico reported that the Justice Department wanted to force a sale of Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting or AT&T's DirecTV before it would approve an $85 billion merger between Time Warner and AT&T. An anonymous news executive who spoke to The Daily Beast said Thursday that the DOJ's request was "politics plain and simple, and an incredibly brazen attempt at interference in a totally straightforward business deal." President Trump has long feuded with CNN and is said to speak to Murdoch on the phone frequently.
In 2014, Time Warner rejected an $80 billion offer to be purchased by Murdoch's Twenty-First Century Fox. On Friday, Vanity Fair's Gabriel Sherman reported that a person close to Murdoch claimed that the 86-year-old executive said that "he'd work behind the scenes" to stop the merger between Time Warner and AT&T. Kelly O'Meara Morales
On Monday, the right-leaning broadcast company One America News Network joined Newsmax and public interest and liberal groups in opposing Sinclair Broadcasting Group's proposed $3.9 billion purchase of Tribune Media, a merger that would expand Sinclair's market share of broadcast TV stations from more than 30 percent of U.S. households to 72 percent of households. Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox is also reportedly threatening to pull Fox affiliate stations if the merger goes through, hitting Sinclair's stock price last week, and the American Cable Association and DISH Network have asked the FCC to require more information from Sinclair about how the merger would affect the public. Monday was the deadline for asking the Federal Communications Commission to block the deal.
Sinclair, which HBO topical comedian John Oliver recently called probably "the most influential media company that you've never heard of," has a notable conservative bent in the commentary and other "must run" segments its sends to its 170 local stations in 81 markets. If the merger is given the green light, Sinclair would add 42 more stations in 33 markets, giving it stations in seven of the 10 biggest U.S. markets.
Under U.S. law, broadcast TV companies are supposed to reach no more than 39 percent of U.S. households, but in April, soon after President Trump named him FCC chairman, Ajit Pai reinstated an antiquated FCC rule designed for UHF television stations that allows broadcast channels 13 and above to not be counted fully in calculating market share. Sinclair, which announced its purchase two weeks after Pai's 2-1 vote, argues that it needs to expand to better compete with cable TV giants and negotiate with other media behemoths. Sinclair and its executives have donated heavily to Republicans, and the company is not expected to face much resistance to its merger from the GOP-led Congress or Pai. You can read more about the FCC's involvement at Politico. Peter Weber
On Tuesday, fashion brand Michael Kors said it has agreed to buy upscale shoemaker Jimmy Choo for $1.17 billion in cash, in a bid to shore up its narrowing profits amid slow growth in its core handbag business. Jimmy Choo has been up for sale since April, when European firm JAB Holding put it on the market. Michael Kors and other fashion brands are trying to come up with strategies to get U.S. consumers to pay full price for luxury handbags, as customers become accustomed to steep discounts and women are switching to smaller purses. In May, when Michael Kors unveiled a turnaround plan, rival Coach agreed to buy Kate Spade for $2.4 billion. The Michael Kors-Jimmy Choo deal requires shareholder approval. Peter Weber
Late Wednesday, a federal judge blocked health insurer Anthem's $54 billion bid to buy rival Cigna, arguing the merger would reduce competition and likely lead to higher prices for customers. The Justice Department had sued to block the deal last summer, and U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson's ruling follows a different federal judge's decision two weeks ago to block the proposed merger of Aetna and Humana on similar antitrust grounds. If the two deals had gone through, the five biggest U.S. health insurers would have been consolidated into three giant companies.
Anthem and Cigna are trying different business models to reduce costs and improve care, and "eliminating this competition from the marketplace would diminish the opportunity for the firms' ideas to be tested and refined, when this is just the sort of innovation the antitrust rules are supposed to foster," Judge Jackson wrote in her 12-page ruling. "The evidence has also shown that the merger is likely to result in higher prices, and that it will have other anticompetitive effects: It will eliminate the two firms' vigorous competition against each other for national accounts, reduce the number of national carriers available to respond to solicitations in the future, and diminish the prospects for innovation in the market."
AT&T Inc. announced Saturday evening it has agreed to buy Time Warner Inc. for $84.5 billion, a price point of $107.50 a share, split equally between cash and stock. The merger is expected to be complete by the end of next year, and the combined company will be headed by current AT&T Chief Executive Randall Stephenson.
"It's a great fit, and it creates immediate and long-term value for our shareholders," Stephenson said — but it still has to get approval from Washington, which in a populist political climate may make the process difficult or shut it down entirely. Republican Donald Trump has already said his administration would not permit the deal.
The merger will pair AT&T's wireless phone service with Time Warner's visual media, including networks like CNN, TNT, and HBO as well as the Warner Bros. film and television studio. This combination would permit the new company to "disrupt the traditional entertainment model and push the boundaries on mobile content availability for the benefit of customers" by offering an online subscription package to wireless customers. Bonnie Kristian
On Friday, British American Tobacco PLC (BAT) offered rival tobacco giant Reynolds American $47 billion for the 57.8 percent of the company it doesn't already own. The price — $56.50 a share, or a 20 percent premium over Reynolds' Oct. 20 closing price — values the American company at $81.3 billion, and the combined cigarette behemoth would pass Altria to become the biggest player in the U.S. market, combining the brands Camel, Newport, Pall Mall, Kent, Dunhill, Lucky Strike, and American Spirit. About $20 billion of the offer would be in cash and the other $27 billion in BAT shares. Peter Weber
On Monday, Bass Pro Shops agreed to buy rival outdoor-sports emporium Cabela's for $4.5 million in cash, creating a giant national company with more than 180 locations and some 40,000 workers. Both Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's are famous for their massive, showy stores, featuring hunting, camping, fishing, and other outdoors gear plus elaborate taxidermy and fishing exhibits. Bass Pro Shops has focused most of its exemption on the eastern half of the U.S., while Cabela's has concentrated on the western half. Bass Pro Shops founder John Morris, 68, will be CEO of the combined company, with about 20 percent of the $50 billion U.S. sporting goods market. The offer price of $65.50 a share represents a 19 percent premium over Cabela's closing price last Friday. Peter Weber
In 2014, Apple bought Beats, the headphones and music service owned by Dr. Dre and music mogul Jimmy Iovine. Now, the company is in talks to buy Jay Z's music streaming service, Tidal, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing "people familiar with the matter." The deal would unite "East Coast and West Coast rap under a single business interest," The Journal notes, but it would also expand Apple's growing Apple Music empire and potentially give the consumer electronics giant access to Tidal's roster of top artists. A Tidal spokesman said no company executives have met with Apple.
Tidal, which doesn't offer a free service, says it has 4.2 million paying subscribers, while Apple Music reports 15 million paying subscribers. Spotify, in contrast, has some 30 million paying and 70 million free users. Tidal's subscription numbers have grown in the past year due to exclusive online access to music by musicians like Beyoncé, Kanye West, Rihanna, and Prince. "I would be surprised if this doesn't happen," music industry analyst Bob Lefsetz tells USA Today. Apple is "at war with Spotify," and Tidal has "very limited options," he added. "Jay Z bought it to sell it and who's going to buy it? Amazon is the only other option and it's going in a different direction." Peter Weber