"We are pleased that, after conducting a full and fair trial on the merits, the Court has categorically rejected the government's lawsuit to block our merger with Time Warner", he said in a statement.
Leon - who presided over the Justice Department's suit against Comcast's acquisition of NBCUniversal that was settled with a consent decree - signaled his time table to announce his decision on AT&T for Tuesday at 4 p.m., giving the company and the Justice Department time to settle the case.
Leon said the government's case fell short on all counts and warned against seeking to delay the deal with an appeal saying that would cause irreparable harm to the companies.
AT&T General Counsel David McAtee now expects its purchase of Time Warner to close by June 20.
At the heart of the DOJ's complaint is an assumption that the merged entity would use its market power to raise the price of content now owned by Time Warner, or threaten to withhold programming, including hit shows such as Game of Thrones and NCAA March Madness. Had Leon ruled in favor of the government, the consequences would have reached far beyond media, to tech, health care, finance and other major fields.
Leon was also unimpressed with the government's theory that AT&T would use its ownership of Time Warner to withhold content from streaming multichannel video programming distributor services like DISH's Sling TV, Hulu Live and Google's YouTube TV. The Trump Justice Department had sued to block the $85 billion merger, arguing that it would hurt competition in cable and satellite TV and jack up costs to consumers for streaming TV and movies.
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Now that a judge has approved the AT&T and Time Warner merger, Comcast is expected to finally place an all-cash offer to try and acquire 21st Century Fox. At the time, AT&T called the move a "radical and inexplicable departure from decades of antitrust precedent". It could tie products together, offering AT&T phone customers free access to Time Warner offerings, squeezing out competitors that do not own media companies.
In making that ruling, Leon reaffirmed the judiciary's traditional tolerance for "vertical integration" - the technical term for mergers between companies that operate related, but distinct, businesses.
Months before Trump nominated him to the Justice Department's leading antitrust position in 2017, Delrahim even had expressed an openness to the combination of AT&T and Time Warner, predicting in an interview on Canadian television that it might not trigger any regulatory concerns. But looking beyond today, the merger could have a strong effect on future deals.
The DOJ has argued that this type of consolidation would give the merged AT&T-Time Warner the ability to raise prices, thwarting the competition's ability to compete by forcing them to raise prices to maintain carriage rights. NY time in a D.C. courtroom that'll likely be packed with lawyers, journalists and investors. Some suspected, however, that the real motivation behind the DOJ's case may be personal and political agenda of Donald Trump himself: He sees CNN as his political nemesis, and CNN is owned by Time Warner.
Shares of AT&T spiked immediately after the announcement and are now down about 2% in after-hours trading.