AT&T has received bids for DIRECTV for roughly $15 billion and could close a deal in early 2021, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

The bids include ones from Apollo Global Management, and Churchill Capital Corp, both equity investment firms. WSJ writes that Apollo’s bid was for slightly less than $15 billion while Churchill’s offer was valued at higher than that amount.

What’s unclear is whether AT&T is offering a majority or minority stake in the satellite TV service, and how DIRECTV would be managed under the new ownership team. AT&T is believed to be interested in handing off the management duties to the buyer so it can focus instead on streaming ventures such as HBO Max.

“The auction is in a late stage and should the company reach a deal with one of the suitors, it could be completed by early next year,” WSJ writes.

AT&T bought DIRECTV for $49 billion in 2015 so unless it sold considerably less than a 50 percent stake in the satcaster, it would take a significant loss. However, DIRECTV’s value has been shrinking thanks to six million subscriber defections since the AT&T purchase.

There may be other bidders besides Apollo and Churchill, but the two investment firms both bring an interesting mix to the table.

Richard Parsons, the former chairman and CEO of Time Warner, which during his tenure included Time Warner Cable, is on Churchill’s management team. Parsons has vast experience with the pay TV industry, and is very familiar with the history of DIRECTV. His expertise would be immensely helpful in steering the nation’s largest satellite TV service in the right direction.

Apollo last year purchased a few dozen local TV stations owned by Cox Media, and in 2016 bought Redbox, the disc rental kiosk business.

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— Phillip Swann