Tags: Lobbying | Comcast | Time-Warner | merger

Fortune's Newmyer: Big Money Lobbying Couldn't Save Comcast-Time Warner Merger

By    |   Friday, 24 April 2015 01:30 PM

Several lessons should emerge from the collapse of the $45 billion merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable.

One of them: "money and connections don't necessarily guarantee success in today's Washington," writes Tory Newmyer of Fortune.

Comcast spent $4.6 million last quarter on lobbying, and Time Warner Cable shelled out $1.7 million. But that wasn't enough to sway skeptical regulators, members of Congress and perhaps President Obama himself.

"Top Comcast officials have gone to great lengths to cultivate ties with the president. Comcast CEO Brian Roberts feted President Obama on Martha's Vineyard in his first term and golfed with him there in his second," Newmyer notes. "And Obama held so many fundraisers in the suburban Philadelphia home of David Cohen — Comcast's executive vice president and chief political operator — that in 2013 the president joked, 'the only thing I haven't done in this house is have Seder dinner.'"

But, "when it counted, Cohen found that goodwill was worth precisely nothing," Newmyer explains.

"After the November elections, Cohen called Valerie Jarrett, Obama's senior adviser, to object to the administration's move toward strict new Internet regulations — and was met with a stiff-arm."

The proposed merger "elicited a public pushback . . . reaching into the high six-figures," Newmyer writes.

Opponents of the deal were quite happy the lobbying campaign failed, of course. "It's nice to see that even an effective, very well-funded, pervasive lobbying campaign cannot win when it was wrong on the facts and the merits," Ed Black, president of the Computer and Communications Industry Association, tells Bloomberg. www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2015-04-23/comcast-finds-golf-and-128-lobbyists-can-t-sell-u-s-on-merger

So where does Comcast go from here amid the shifting media industry?

"The reality is, Comcast has an insatiable appetite for deals," Rich Greenfield, a media analyst at BTIG, tells The Wall Street Journal. "I always like to call them the insatiable Roberts family. They've got to do something." Comcast was co-founded by current CEO Brian Roberts' father, Ralph.

Greenfield believes Comcast will now go after a wireless phone-service provider, such as T-Mobile US or Sprint.

But media analyst Craig Moffett of MoffettNathanson Research expects Comcast to pull back on deals for a while, at least in the U.S.

"It's very hard to imagine Comcast doing any substantive mergers and acquisitions for the moment," he tells The Journal. "I think it would be viewed as unnecessarily provocative by the Federal Communications Commission and Justice Department."

One possible target: Liberty Global, led by John Malone. "One would have to think they would at least have a passing interest in Liberty Global," Moffett writes in a commentary obtained by The Journal.

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Several lessons should emerge from the collapse of the $45 billion merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable.
Lobbying, Comcast, Time-Warner, merger
Friday, 24 April 2015 01:30 PM
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