Sen. Al Franken Seeks Probe Into Whether Comcast Jumped Gun on NBC Universal Exec Announcement

6:04 PM PST 11/22/2010 by Georg Szalai
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Cable giant says "transition and integration planning is common, proper and expected" ahead of regulatory approval of deals.

NEW YORK -- Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), a former performer on NBC's Saturday Night Live who has spoken out critically against Comcast Corp.'s planned acquisition of NBC Universal, asked the Justice Department on Monday to look into whether the largest U.S. cable operator engaged in "illegal collaboration" by announcing the executive structure of the combined firm last week.

By unveiling an executive structure before regulatory approval, Franken said that "Comcast may be seeking to indirectly exert managerial and operational control of that company."

In a letter to the Justice Department, he also suggested the cable giant "may purposefully or inadvertently trigger the exchange of competitively sensitive information between the companies beyond what is customarily permissible in pre-merger settings." That may "constitute 'gun jumping' in violation of" antitrust law, Franken suggested.

A Comcast spokeswoman in response highlighted that the planning and announcement of new executive structures is normal in mergers and emphasized that the company has not interfered in the business affairs of NBC Uni.

"Transition and integration planning is common, proper and expected in a transaction of this type," she said. "Post-closing management teams are regularly announced prior to antitrust approval. NBC Universal has remained in total control of all decision making to date, Comcast has had no role in NBC Universal business operations."

Steve Burke will be CEO of NBC Universal, with key executives on the film and cable networks side staying in their positions. However, the NBC network was among those parts of the entertainment company seeing a major reshuffle.

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