WASHINGTON, March 6 The top U.S. antitrust
enforcer, Bill Baer, will be recused from reviewing Comcast
Corp's proposed deal to buy Time Warner Cable Inc
, the U.S. Justice Department said on Thursday.
The investigation of the $45.2 billion deal will be overseen
by two other Justice Department officials: Principal Deputy
Assistant Attorney General Renata Hesse and Deputy Assistant
Attorney General David Gelfand, a litigator.
In a statement announcing the decision, the Justice
Department did not say why Baer, who heads the Justice
Department's Antitrust Division, had recused himself.
When Comcast was buying NBC Universal, a deal concluded in
early 2011, Baer, then a partner at the law firm of Arnold &
Porter, represented NBCU's owner, General Electric.
Hesse has significant experience with big mergers. While at
the FCC, she headed the team that reviewed AT&T's proposed
merger to buy T-Mobile USA. The U.S. government challenged that
deal in 2011, and the companies eventually gave up.
The Comcast <CMCSA.O deal for Time Warner Cable will
also be reviewed by the Federal Communications Commission.
Consumer advocates have criticized the proposed transaction
since a combined Comcast and Time Warner Cable would have a near
30 percent share of the U.S. pay television market and would be
a major provider of broadband Internet access.
As the U.S. agencies prepare to review the deal, Comcast has
been working to burnish its reputation with regulators.
On Tuesday, it announced that its discounted Internet
service for low-income families, Internet Essentials, will be
available indefinitely. The program has enrolled about 300,000
families since it launched in 2011.