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AOL/TW Wages Talent War, Lures Seasoned Media Exec

Last month, WebMD got a boost when America Online, Inc., the world's largest Internet service provider (ISP), agreed to use its content as their exclusive source for online healthcare information.

Today, AOL Time Warner got a boost when officials announced they had successfully lured Patricia Fili-Krushel, WebMD consumer services chief executive officer, to fill the post of executive vice president-administration.

It's been a good month for AOL/TW, a company that is obviously going out of its way to surround itself with top-notch executives. Two weeks ago, Steve Case, AOL/TW chairman, lured former Ambassador and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Robert Kimmel from Commerce One to its senior staff.

The move, which puts her on the senior staff of the largest and most diverse media empire in the world, comes at just the right time for Fili-Krushel. WebMD, which showed promise when it first launched in 1999, is a sinking ship of spiraling losses caused by one too many acquisitions.

When Fili-Krushel was brought on board WebMD in April, 2000, she came at a time when the Internet bubble was about to burst. There wasn't much she could do to stop the financial slide in the online company's stock, which dropped from the mid-30s per share to a little more than $4 per share during her tenure.

Investors were becoming increasingly wary of funding operations that couldn't produce a profit. Corporate in-fighting between officers and its board of directors, coupled with a string of acquisition that racked up WebMD's net loss to $1.34 billion in the fourth quarter 2000 and $1.04 billion in the first quarter 2001, didn't help matters.

For Fili-Krushel, the move is a return to an industry she knows best: the media.

At WebMD, she was brought on to manage the company's media portfolio and provide strategic direction to become the largest online consumer portal. At AOL/TW, she will handle all personnel issues including employee development and diversity issues.

Richard Parsons, AOL/TW co-chief operating officer and Fili-Krushel's reporting official, is pleased someone with such an impressive media pedigree is joining the senior staff.

"Throughout her impressive career, Pat has been a proven leader, with a wide range of operational and managerial responsibilities in virtually every area of the media, entertainment and Internet landscape," Parsons said. "We are also aware of the fact that this is, in a sense, a homecoming for Pat, and we're most pleased to welcome her back."

Before joining WebMD, Fili-Krushel was president of ABC Television Network, and was instrumental in improving the company's ratings from third to first. As president, she oversaw operations of ABC's news, daytime, sports and children's programming. While at the TV station, she conceived and launched SoapNet, a 24-hour soap opera cable channel.

Before joining ABC, she was vice president of business affairs at the Home Box Office (HBO) and senior vice president of programming for the Lifetime Television channel.

While her Internet stint might not have been what she hoped for, the experience was instrumental in landing her job at AOL/TW, a fledgling conglomeration in which officials are still trying to figure out the best way to run. As the largest ISP in the world and one of the largest media companies in the world, senior officers with experience in both are few and far between.

Fili-Krushel hopes to leverage that experience into success at AOL/TW.

"The opportunity to join AOL Time Warner, a one-of-a-kind company, is extraordinary and I'm looking forward to leveraging my experience in both traditional and new media to help integrate and develop the company's most important asset, its people," she said.