Three AOL senior executives to leave

Executives directly under ex-CEO's wing on their way out too

A month after Jonathan Miller unexpectedly got fired as AOL's chief executive officer, three of the senior executives who reported directly to him and who oversee key areas of AOL's business are on their way out, according to sources.

Jim Bankoff, executive vice president of consumer and publisher services, and Joe Redling, president of AOL Mobile, customer management and paid services, and chairman and CEO of AOL International, will leave the company soon, along with John Buckley, executive vice president of corporate communications.

All three are still with the company but have set the process in motion to pack their bags and move on, taking advantage of a so-called "change of control" clause in their contracts, sources said. Joining them will be John McKinley, who, as had been confirmed previously, is leaving at the end of the year after a temporary stint as chief technology officer.

It's no surprise to see senior executive changes after a CEO is replaced, said industry analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group. In the case of AOL, clearly the parent company, Time Warner, was dissatisfied with Miller's performance. It should be clear to everyone that Time Warner wants to see a change in course, he said.

What that course might be still remains to be seen, said Enderle, who doesn't rule out the possibility that Time Warner may be getting ready to sell AOL. "I didn't think AOL was in that bad a shape, but clearly Time Warner is very unhappy," he said.

Like Miller's dismissal, the departures of Bankoff and Redling will no doubt send shockwaves through the management ranks at AOL. Both were top generals for Miller, who chose them to figure prominently in the restructuring plan he drafted and began to implement in September.

"Jim will have the dedicated distribution, adoption and technology resources to be able to manage his portfolio of programming initiatives, from instant messaging to social networking sites such as AIM Pages," Miller wrote of Bankoff in a memo in September in which he outlined the plan. In that document, Miller also assigned Bankoff the task of developing a new publishing and content-management system, calling the project "a priority for the company that Jim will spearhead."

Meanwhile, Miller called Redling "one of AOL's most capable executives" and described Redling's main business responsibilities -- mobile, customer relationships and international -- as "three key initiatives that directly address our future." Redling was supposed to boost AOL's advertising business abroad, while designing a new international structure. In mobile, Redling was entrusted with developing an area in which Miller said AOL had never placed enough investment or focus.

The departures of Redling and Bankoff will likely make industry observers wonder if AOL runs the risk of derailing, at a time when it is undergoing a critical structural and strategic overhauling. Before his sudden ouster, Miller had garnered general praise from pundits for steering AOL through a radical transformation, from a company focused on dial-up Internet access subscription fees to one focused on online advertising. Miller's replacement, Randy Falco, is a TV industry veteran who was president and chief operating officer of the NBC Universal Television Group and doesn't come from the Internet field.

Bankoff has been with AOL since 1995, and has held a variety of positions, including president of AOL Web Properties and president of AOL eCommerce. Redling came to AOL in 1999 as senior vice president of marketing for the AOL service and was later promoted to marketing president. An official announcement from AOL about the impending departures of these executives and their replacements is likely to come next week, sources said.

AOL declined to comment.

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