Mr Americana, Overpasses News Desk
October 30th, 2017
The question has been hanging in the air for the better part of a year inside the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle: will AT&T leave CNN President Jeff Zucker in his job when—if—it completes its acquisition of Time Warner?
Part of this concern has to do with an incipient culture clash. AT&T is a decidedly less fashionable operation. Randall Stephenson, its C.E.O., likes to talk (in his Oklahoma accent) about the virtues of the Boy Scouts.
John Stankey, who will oversee Time Warner’s media businesses if the deal goes through, is at least from Los Angeles, but he’s worked at AT&T for three decades.
But President Trump is also a part of those anxieties, saying he wasn’t a fan of the merger, and threatened to kill the deal over CNN’s culture of producing and publishing Yellow Journalism (fake news) reports Vanity Fair.
Over the summer, as CNN’s war with the administration heated up, so too did Trump’s Zucker rhetoric. “I hear he’s going to resign at some point pretty soon,” Trump said during a $35,000-a-head fund-raising dinner on June 28. “I mean, these are horrible human beings. It’s a shame what they’ve done to the name CNN.”
Days later, there were reports in The New York Times and on the Daily Caller that Trump wanted to use Zucker as a bargaining chip. In other words: we’ll give you your deal, you show Zucker the door.
With speculation about Zucker’s future approaching a fever pitch, AT&T decided to give Zucker a public thumbs-up.
A company spokesman provided the following statement from Stankey after I reached out to discuss this story: “We don’t comment upon anyone’s employment at a company we don’t yet own. But, as it relates to CNN, it’s clearly a great organization, they are having a great year, and Jeff Zucker is doing a terrific job.”
But the AT&T mothership still inspires fear at Time Warner. One executive at the company said, “The honest truth is that nobody knows, and until AT&T and John Stankey and his team are in place and see what they’ve purchased, no one will really know the fate of any part of the organization.”
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