With its merger still under federal review, Comcast last week announced its new executive lineup for NBC Universal. And that, according to Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), might have violated antitrust laws.
Franken on Monday urged Justice’s head of antitrust, Christine Varney, to investigate whether Comcast’s appointment of 43 individuals to various positions at NBC Universal was “gun-jumping” and violated the “spirit of federal antitrust law.”
“By announcing the future leadership of NBC Universal well in advance of federal approval, Comcast may be seeking to indirectly exert managerial and operational control of that company,” Franken wrote. “Moreover, in doing so, Comcast may purposefully or inadvertently trigger the exchange of competitively sensitive information between the companies, beyond what is customarily permissible in premerger settings.”
Comcast CEO Steve Burke last week named Robert Greenblatt to be chairman of NBC Entertainment and Bonnie Hammer was named chair of NBC Universal Cable Entertainment and Cable Studios. Lauren Zalaznick was appointed chair of NBC Universal entertainment and digital networks and integrated media.
Comcast spokeswoman FCC defended the company’s decision on NBC Universal executives.
“Transition and integration planning is common, proper, and expected in a transaction of this type,” said Sena Fitzmaurice, a spokeswoman for Comcast. “NBC Universal has remained in total control of all decision making to date, Comcast has had no role in NBC Universal business operations.”
Justice and the Federal Communications Commission is expected to be nearing the end of their federal reviews of the proposed mega media merger. Sources familiar with the reviews say the agencies could impose conditions on the merger that require Comcast to share NBC content with Internet TV providers.