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    Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav would like a new president, too

    Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav holds court at the 2024 Sun Valley Conference.

    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    Media and tech bosses hate Joe Biden’s antitrust policies, which they think are holding them back from buying and selling each other.But they tend to be careful about how they express that stuff out loud. What with the upcoming election and all.Not WBD CEO David Zaslav, though.

    Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav has no opinion about who should win the US presidential election this fall. Except he doesn’t want Joe Biden to win.

    And no, he didn’t come out and use those exact words.

    But he got plenty close Tuesday at Sun Valley, the annual media and tech mogul conference:

    Via Bloomberg:

    Asked about the upcoming presidential election, Zaslav said it mattered less to him which party wins, as long as the next president was friendly to business.”We just need an opportunity for deregulation, so companies can consolidate and do what we need to to be even better,” he said.

    To be clear: What Zaslav is saying is what many business leaders — particularly in media and tech — say all the time, but relatively quietly: They don’t like Joe Biden’s antitrust regime, which has led the US government to question and in many cases try to block all kinds of mergers and acquisitions — from Microsoft’s $69 billion deal to buy Activision (which eventually went through) to Adobe’s $20 billion deal to buy Figma (which didn’t go through) to Meta’s $400 million deal for Within, a VR company (which eventually went through, too).

    And Zaslav’s primary benefactor — billionaire investor John Malone, who put Zaslav in the position to run WBD and sits on its board — has been banging the consolidation drum for years.

    The two men frequently bring up the idea that WBD would like to buy something and trial-ballooned a Paramount deal last year. Though lots of people see WBD, whose stock is hovering near an all-time low, as a sale target itself. Comcast is usually floated as the potential acquirer in that scenario.

    And it’s conventional wisdom that if Donald Trump wins the upcoming election, he’ll usher in an era where just about any M&A deal you can dream up can go through (as long as Trump doesn’t have a problem with one of those companies — ask AT&T and Time Warner, whose deal was held up in court for years during Trump’s first administration.)

    But it’s one thing to think that kind of thing, and to talk about it with other moguls and people who like them. But if you’re the high-profile leader of a very high-profile media conglomerate — which includes a very high-profile news organization — you may not want to weigh in on the election while standing in front of a press gaggle. Especially when you’ve spent the past few years dealing with self-inflicted PR wounds. (WBD didn’t respond to my request for comment.)

    Which is a reminder that moguls have a few options when it comes to Sun Valley and the media, which is technically an off-the-record event (though some journalists, like CNN’s Anderson Cooper, arrive to host closed-door interviews):

    You don’t have to say anything at all! Just wave to the cameras, who will document your fake-dressed-down athleisure wear (a polo for Tim Cook; another guns-out t-shirt/vest combo for Jeff Bezos).You can say inscrutable stuff to the press gaggle, like Paramount owner (for now) Shari Redstone. Per Bloomberg, Redstone “pointed to reporters as she arrived at the Sun Valley resort and said: ‘We’re going to save the world together!'”You can hold forth for an actual interview, where you either say nothing at all or create all kinds of havoc, like Disney CEO Bob Iger did last year when he put much of the company up for sale, then had to walk that back.

    Looks like Zaslav went for a 3-1 combo, and I give him credit for that. Especially his attempt to zhuzh the place up with a bandana and corduroy trucker jacket. Perhaps it’s this $4,500 Brunello Cucinelli one?

    Read the original article on Business Insider

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