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Critic quits board of AT&T over bid

SHARE Critic quits board of AT&T over bid

NEW YORK (AP) — Outspoken AT&T Corp. critic John Malone has resigned from the company's board a month early, deciding there was no point in being a lame duck with no role in discussing Comcast Corp.'s bid to buy AT&T's cable TV business.

But Malone, who joined the board in 1999 after selling his cable company to AT&T, made sure not to leave Tuesday without offering his opinion on the takeover bid, calling the offer inadequate, said a source familiar with his resignation letter.

Malone had planned to step down Aug. 10 when Liberty Media, a TV programming concern he ran as a subsidiary of AT&T, was slated to be spun off as an independent company.

Though Malone was informed of Comcast's overtures, the board decided it didn't want a soon-to-be-outsider to be clued in on specific details since the matter would likely extend beyond Aug. 10, the source said.

Likewise, several AT&T board members who resigned on Monday in conjunction with the official spinoff of AT&T Wireless were also left out of the loop on Comcast.

Comcast's public bid for AT&T Broadband, the nation's largest provider of cable TV and high-speed Internet access, was launched Sunday after talks with AT&T management failed to produce a deal.

The offer for AT&T Broadband, created by merging both Malone's Tele-Communications Inc. and another big cable company named MediaOne Group, was initially valued at $44.5 billion, not including assumed debt.

AT&T's purchases of TCI and MediaOne, including interests in cable operators Time Warner Enterprises and Cablevision that the Comcast bid doesn't include, were worth a combined $90 billion when they were announced between mid-1998 and mid-1999.

AT&T has sold off about $18 billion worth of the cable systems acquired in those deals, and the stakes in Time Warner and Cablevision are currently estimated to have a combined value between $10 billion and $15 billion.

Malone, in his letter, said that "since I have been excluded form the board's deliberations involving the Comcast situation to date, it seems appropriate that I accelerate my departure," the source said.

"As an AT&T shareholder, I find the Comcast offer insufficient," he added, asserting that any deal for AT&T's cable business should include the stakes in Time Warner Enterprises and Cablevision.

In a statement, AT&T chairman C. Michael Armstrong "said that he understood Malone's decision to resign four weeks early in view of the fact that he is not participating in current discussions concerning the Comcast Corporation's proposal to purchase AT&T Broadband."