Falco memo confirms AOL senior exec departures

Memo by new CEO, Randy Falco, announces a reshuffling of top-tier management

AOL on Monday confirmed to its employees the rumored departure of several senior executives and announced a reshuffling of top-tier management duties in a memo penned by Randy Falco, the new chief executive officer.

Five high-level executives are leaving, all of whom reported directly to Jonathan Miller, the former CEO who was abruptly fired in mid-November to the surprise of many.

Four of them figured prominently in Miller's strategy, outlined in September, to complete AOL's radical transformation from a provider of dial-up Internet access that charged for most of its content and services to an open and free Web portal focused on online advertising revenue.

Miller had been praised for early success in transitioning the company to an ad-driven model, and some AOL observers are concerned that the shakeup could destroy the momentum he built up. In particular, some view with scepticism that Miller has been replaced by a TV industry veteran and not an Internet specialist. Falco was president and chief operating officer of the NBC Universal Television Group.

In Monday's memo, obtained by IDG News Service, Falco praised Miller's plan but said it needed to be "tighter, clearer and better focused on operations" with a greater focus on execution and with more accountability "built into the organization."

"In such crucial areas as our speed to market and innovating new products, we have much work ahead of us," Falco wrote.

Heading out the door are Jim Bankoff, executive vice president of consumer and publisher services, and Joe Redling, president of AOL Mobile, customer management and paid services, and CEO of AOL International.

Joining them will be Chief Technology Officer John McKinley, whom AOL had already acknowledged was leaving. Randy Boe, executive vice president for consumer advocacy and privacy, has also resigned, as well as John Buckley, executive vice president of corporate communications.

Falco's memo doesn't say when these men will leave. All decided to resign on their own accord, sources said.

"AOL has just gone through elements of a significant reorganization, and I know that the departure of well-respected colleagues and friends is not easy for anyone here," Falco wrote.

Eight executives will report directly to Falco, including Ted Leonsis, AOL vice chairman; Ron Grant, president and chief operating officer; and Steve Swad, chief financial officer.

Grant, a former senior VP of operations at parent company Time Warner who arrived after Miller's departure, will oversee AOL's business units: products, programming, platforms, AOL media networks, paid services, and international. The new CTO, Balan Nair, will also report to him, "because smoothly integrating our technology resources into the business units has been such a priority," Falco wrote.

Kevin Conroy, who reported directly to Miller, will be in charge of products, including AOL Mail, the AOL PC software, portals, video and video search, storage, safety and security products, AIM and mobile products.

Bill Wilson will head AOL's programming, an area Bankoff ran, while Falco is still looking for someone to oversee AOL's platforms, including the search engines, e-commerce offerings and online mapping site MapQuest.

Mike Kelly, who also reported directly to Miller, will continue to head AOL Media Networks, which includes the key ad sales operation.

Kim Partoll, who reported to the departing Redling, will continue in her role managing AOL's paid services. Another area Redling managed, international, still lacks a chief.

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