WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. (TheStreet) -- It had all the charm of a killer of the loose. On Thanksgiving morning, AT&T (T) - Get Report announced that it was setting aside $4 billion against the chance that its T-Mobile (DT) - Get Report deal would unspool.
But today: hope...of sorts. The
New York Times
ran big with a story about how AT&T might simply sell off assets to please government regulators and seal the deal. Can government regulators be manipulated as easily as traders and journalists, who largely overlooked the $4 billion news, because it was released as they were prepping turkey?
The takeaway from the Times article, with the headline: "Asset Sale May Be Next for AT&T," is "probably." The lead even borrows an AT&T advertising tagline: "Rethink possible." With apologies to AT&T's advertising efforts, this article is historically suspect. In fact, the Times did not even touch upon history. This is a common oversight made by reporters who practice an art form, journalism, that is very much of the here and now.
But if you do examine history, as
The Wall Street Journal
did, you'll see that the wireless industry has gone the asset sale route to curry favor with regulators before. Well, it hasn't ended well. And that, obviously, does not bode well.
The Journal gets this right from the headline: "Phone Deals Dial Up Coverage Problems - Asset Sales Questioned as AT&T Tries to Save Acquisition." Divestitures haven't worked in the wireless business, the article is soon telling us, and the government is well aware of this failed history.
deal for Alltel, which involved selling off customers to
, for example, proved a hornet's nest of troubles for consumers. The government does not want to repeat history. But most of the media--including The New York Times--does not even want to consider history.
At the time of publication, Fuchs had no positions in any of the stocks mentioned in this column.
Marek Fuchs was a stockbroker for Shearson Lehman Brothers and a money manager before becoming a journalist who wrote The New York Times' "County Lines" column for six years. He also did back-up beat coverage of The New York Knicks for the paper's Sports section for two seasons and covered other professional and collegiate sports. He has contributed frequently to many of the Times' other sections, including National, Metro, Escapes, Style, Real Estate, Arts & Leisure, Travel, Money & Business, Circuits and the Op-Ed Page.
For his "Business Press Maven" column on how business and finance are covered by the media, Fuchs was named best business journalist critic in the nation by the Talking Biz website at The University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Fuchs is a frequent speaker on the business media, in venues ranging from National Public Radio to the annual conference of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.
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