Comcast, AT&T shareholders approve merger

Wednesday, July 10th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Shareholders of Comcast and AT&T Corp. overwhelmingly approved Comcast's planned $51 billion purchase of AT&T's cable television business Wednesday in a deal that would create a new cable TV powerhouse with nearly twice as many subscribers as its closest rival.

The deal between Comcast, the nation's third-largest cable television company, and AT&T Broadband, the largest, would form a new AT&T Comcast with about 22 million subscribers. AOL Time Warner has about 11 million subscribers.

``This is a national cable company,'' Comcast President Brian L. Roberts told nearly 100 shareholders. Roberts, who is to become chief executive officer of AT&T Comcast, said it would have 70 percent of the subscribers in the nation's top 20 cable markets.

The companies still need federal regulators' approval, with the Federal Communications Commission and Department of Justice expected to approve the deal later in the year.

At the AT&T meeting in North Charleston, S.C., outgoing chairman and chief executive Michael Armstrong, slated to become chairman of AT&T-Comcast, denied shareholders' accusations that he had created a cushy position for himself while negotiating the deal. Armstrong said Comcast merely picked up his existing contract with AT&T.

Comcast shareholders' approval had been assured, with Roberts and his family controlling 86.7 percent of the voting power in Comcast's stock. The company said the merger passed with 99.8 percent of the vote.

About 95 percent of the AT&T shares voted at its meeting were in favor of the merger. Spokeswoman Eileen Connolly had said AT&T expected the merger to help improve its credit rating by eliminating as much as $20 billion of the company's debt.