RealTime IT News

Kimmitt Defects for AOL Time Warner

Steve Case and crew scored a coup Thursday with the appointment of Robert Kimmel as AOL Time Warner executive vice president for global and strategic policy.

Starting July 1, Kimmel will leave his position as president of e-commerce infrastructure company Commerce One and move his belongings East to AOL/TW headquarters in New York. Dennis Jones, Commerce One's chief operating officer and vice chairman of the board, was hastily named Kimmitt's replacement.

Jerry Levin, AOL/TW chief executive officer, has every reason to believe Kimmitt's arrival bodes well for his company.

"It is unusual to find an executive who has held significant positions of responsibility in government, and who has also had significant private sector operating responsibility," Levin said. "We're delighted to welcome Bob Kimmitt to AOL Time Warner and are confident he will play a critical role in shaping our company's policies and future."

Reporting directly to Case, AOL Time Warner's chairman of the board, Kimmitt will be responsible for the media giant's policies in America and abroad. But recent developments at AOL/TW will likely take up most of his time in the coming months.

With the nation's second-largest cable network in the country, AOL/TW has come under attack from its competitors and the media for discriminating against digital subscriber line (DSL) providers. At issue is the company's refusal to allow competitors to advertise on their cable network.

While not illegal, the situation is unique. AOL/TW is the first media/Internet/entertainment/TV company in U.S. history, the product of a $135 billion merger between the nation's number one Internet service provider (ISP) and Time Warner. As the first of its kind, AOL/TW created an unprecedented amount of regulatory snarls for federal officials.

It took months of wrangling for the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission to come up with conditions to prevent any anti-competitive actions by the newly minted company. But regulations aren't enough as AOL/TW, and its competition, test the limits of these conditions.

According to Robert Cook, a lawyer for Washington, D.C.-based Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP and former staff attorney for the FTC's bureau of competition, the appointment is a sign AOL/TW is cognizant of putting a good face on government relations, here and abroad.

"The hiring of Robert Kimmitt is less a sign that AOL Time Warner 'needs help' on public policy matters than it is a sign that AOL Time Warner is very conscious of public policy matters and intends to do all the right things," Cook said. "Kimmitt has all the right connections in the U.S. and Europe. He was for example, U.S. ambassador to Germany during the previous Bush Administration. Europe is extremely important to global businesses like AOL Time Warner and is not likely to become less important."

Kimmitt is a perfect fit for the media giant. A graduate of Georgetown University and the Army's West Point, he serves on the board of directors for Allianz Life Insurance, Mannesmann AG and Siemens AG, in addition to his vice chairmanship on Commerce One.

A savvy political player, he has the credentials to sway popular opinion with both legislators and regulators. He has held the position of U.S. Ambassador to Germany (during the Bush I Administration), Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, general counsel to the U.S. Treasury Department and deputy assistant to the President for national security affairs at the White House.