Echostar, Hughes Square-Up to Antitrust Regulators

06 November 2002

Lawyers acting for Hughes Electronics and EchoStar Communications – respectively America’s largest and second largest satellite TV operators – on Tuesday made it plain they will not go gentle into that good night if government antitrust authorities try to block their intended love match.

On October 31 the Justice Department with the support of the Federal Communications Commission and twenty-three states, dissatisfied with the concessions offered by the two satellite titans, filed a lawsuit to halt the merger.

The department argued that the deal - which would create the nation's largest pay-television entity - would eliminate competition and harm consumers nationwide.

But a regiment of lawyers representing the broadcasters told US District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle they intend to fight the government’s action and requested an early date for the hearing, citing a self-imposed January deadline to ink the deal.

Judge Huvelle, however, declined to be hassled, saying that deadline was not set in stone and could be extended by the ardent duo. She offered a late February trial date – plus just two days in which to respond to her offer.

Having been slapped firmly into place by the judge, EchoStar declared itself “pleased” with the February date and said it would “discuss our options with GM [Hughes’ parent] and Hughes as we move forward”.

In the interim, some industry seers believe that Rupert Murdoch will not stand idly by and let matters run their course, predicting an expertly-timed intervention in the near future.

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff