Levin to Depart AOL Time Warner

By @NY Staff

The guessing over who would succeed Jerry Levin as AOL Time Warner’s chief executive officer is over. Levin announced today that he would retire in May of 2002 and that Richard Parsons, currently the co-chief operating officer, would replace him as CEO.

The company also announced the launch of a six month transition team to help the succession plan, which would leave current co-chief operating officer Bob Pittman as the sole COO.

The announcement ends more than a year of speculation over who would get the nod to replace the 62-year-old Levin as CEO of the company, a media colossus formed from the merger of ISP America Online and media and entertainment empire Time Warner.

Under the new management structure, Pittman, 47, would report to Parsons, who is 53, as would all of Levin’s current reports; all the division CEOs would report to Pittman as well, the company said.

In a statement, Levin said after spending his entire career at the company (he ran Time Warner before it merged with AOL), the decision to retire was major, but one whose time had come.

“Given that we are almost a full year into the merger and that an outstanding management team is now in place at the company, I am convinced that AOL Time Warner should begin an orderly transition to a new era of leadership,” he said.

“I have the greatest confidence in Dick Parsons’ ability to lead the company forward, coalesce its diverse interests, and work with our strategic partners to achieve our ambitious goals. At the same time, Bob Pittman is the best operating executive in the business and it makes perfect sense to expand his responsibilities to include all of the Company’s day-to-day operations.”

Steve Case, the 43-year-old former chief executive of AOL who holds the title as Active Chairman, is expected to continue in that role. He has often described his position as that of big picture visionary, keeping his eye on long-term strategic focus on convergence, for example.

Levin said Pittman and Parsons would work closely with Case. “They will benefit from Steve Case’s vision and strategic thinking, working closely with him to take AOL Time Warner to the next level.”

Case also said part of Levin’s legacy with AOL Time Warner would be the management team he assembled for the merger.

Parsons and Pittman “have been instrumental in pulling together the various units of our company, streamlining our operations and pursuing many growth opportunities for the future,” his statement said.

“Dick and Bob offer us a powerful and complementary combination of intellect, business acumen and strategic perspective, and I am looking forward to working with them closely in the years ahead.”

Levin had proposed the six-month transition team to the company’s board of directors and Case endorsed it. The timing of Levin’s retirement is to coincide with AOL Time Warner’s annual meeting in May of next year.

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