Time Warner, which owns assets like Warner Bros. and CNN, has cleared another hurdle to merging with AT&T to create a telecom-media giant.
Time Warner on Wednesday secured shareholder approval for its $85.4 billion merger, which, if approval from U.S. regulators is received, will combine one of the nation's largest telecommunication companies with a Hollywood media player that also owns HBO, TBS and TNT.
A preliminary tally had 78.83 percent of voting rights shareholders polling in favor of the merger, and another 64.3 percent voted for a compensation plan for top executives. Time Warner said it expected to close the transaction before the end of 2017.
"We think this transaction makes sense strategically and financially," Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes told investors during a special shareholders meeting that was webcast before a poll on the merger was held.
Bewkes also fielded questions from investors, including one on whether he and the current Time Warner management team will be retained. "We intend to have the management structure of Turner, HBO and Warner Bros. continue as the divisions they are," he answered. "I'm intending to work after the merger closes for at least a year," Bewkes added about his own position.
The exec said he may stay on longer as his post-merger presence had not yet been negotiated, but he has talked in the past about an eventual exit after the AT&T deal closes. Bewkes also promised "non-discriminatory" access to rival programming beyond Time Warner's content if AT&T is allowed to complete the acquisition.
Time Warner still awaits a review by the Justice Department and other regulators on the proposed combination.
The combination of AT&T and Time Warner will create a media-telecommunications firm that is much larger than Comcast, the giant cable TV distributor that purchased NBCUniversal five years ago. It also makes AT&T a major media power player after its acquisition last year of DirecTV for $48.5 billion.