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Win, Lose or Draw: AT&T and T-Mobile Edition

Thursday, 1 Sep 2011 | 9:23 AM ET
AT&T Communications corporate offices at 175 East Houston St. in San Antonio.
Toby Jorrin
AT&T Communications corporate offices at 175 East Houston St. in San Antonio.

So yesterday the Department of Justice came out and said that calling AT&T-Mobile your beloved service provider may be but a dream. AT&T will no doubt put up a strong fight, what with its five law firms, four banks, and two public relations firms on retainer—not to mention a heavy lobbying presence in Washington. But in the meantime, let’s look at who’s coming away with what.

Winners:

EMPLOYEES. So 5,000 jobs would be brought back to the US from abroad in a magical move of post-deal reverse-outsourcing. But a multiple of that would likely be lost if the deal went through. Score one for those who get to keep their jobs—regardless of where that may be.

SPRINT NEXTEL.Sprint got boxed out of a deal last time around but could be back in the game if the deal gets scuttled. And if it doesn’t? Sprint could pick up whatever assets regulators make the AT&T sell, therefore making it a stronger competitor. Not to mention the value 4G is awarded in the deal, boosting Sprint’s minority stake in Clearwire.

CHRISTINE VARNEY. The Obama appointment left her post in July and decamped for white-shoe law firm Cravath, Swaine and Moore, known for its antitrust work. Originally reported to leave in early August, Varney nabbed a cool last month of summer (she's said to start at Cravath on Tuesday)—and has surely avoided a lengthy court battle that would determine her record.

FEDERAL DISTRICT COURT. They get the case of the decade, or at least of the year. CNBC’s Eamon Javers reported an expedited trial should take place in late winter or early spring 2012; my sources tell me a judge has already been staffed to the case.

Losers:

AT&T. The multi-billion-dollar break-up fee is just the beginning. Add to that an embarrassing filing flop (see: Arnold & Porter), and also the fact that they'll go down as the first major deal to be struck down by the Obama Administration's antitrust cops.

GREENHILL & CO. Greenhill shares plummeted on the expectation that the boutique’s tens-of-millions in deal fees could be at risk. Thomson Reuters expected advisory fees could reach $150 million – and Greenhill would get a share. Losing the AT&T deal would cut Greenhill’s league table ranking – the ladder upon which Wall Street rainmakers beat their chests – to 40, from 18 previously.

JPMORGAN. JPMorgan singlehandedly wrote a check for $20 billion to get the deal done in March, before parceling out that risk to 11 relationship banks. JPMorgan took the underwrite fees but splits the total fees – which Freeman Consulting estimates could be $75 – 85 million – with the other banks.

ARNOLD & PORTER. For perhaps the biggest antitrust misfire of all time. Arnold & Porter accidentally filed a document publicly that was first meant for FCC eyes. Not to mention that it contained a juicy anti-AT&T nugget: The company chose not to build out its own 4G LTE network for a tenth of the cost of buying T-Mobile. In English: It would rather wipe someone else out than spend less money building it organically.

DRAW:

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE. The antitrust agency was comin’ in hot with today’s announcement – especially after AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said in the morning that he expected the deal to close in Q1 2012. But that comes after the group's track record the last two years has failed to live up to the title of “new sheriff in town” that came after the appointments from the Obama Administration.

T-MOBILE CUSTOMERS. So they avoided the bottleneck that is the AT&T network – which would have only gotten more clogged when AT&T’s 3G network began hosting T-Mobile’s 3G and 4G customers. There’s that. But there’s also the idea that T-Mobile stopped investing in growth once the AT&T deal was inked. Jury's still out.

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