The first deal of the Internet Century is as much noted for the team of old and new media players it brings together as for its size and scope. Indeed, looking at the dais at the New York press conference announcing the deal, one question loomed: Are there too many cooks in the kitchen? Here's a look at the chefs behind AOL Time Warner Inc.
Steve Case Now: Chairman and CEO, AOL Later: Chairman, AOL Time Warner Internet boy wonder Steve Case is well suited to his new post as company visionary, after having wholly imagined how to capture the minds, hearts and dollars from more than 20 million subscribers. As Case has taken a less hands-on role lately, preferring to lobby in Washington and make speeches, he's well prepared to sit back and think deep thoughts on the future of convergence and the Internet. Being fast and nimble - not to mention writing business-model revisions every couple of months - has gotten his company to where it is today.
Can the new 800-pound gorilla take it to the next level?
Gerald Levin Now: Chairman and CEO, Time Warner Later: CEO, AOL Time Warner At the new AOL Time Warner, Levin's shrewd management style and skills in bringing giant companies back from the ashes will come into play as he faces both a kitchen full of egos and the herculean task of meshing the old with the new.
And who's calling whom old? "For those of you who know me well, I am a broadband person," he told reporters on Monday. "I'm an interactive guy. I have been building networks all my life and this really provides an opportunity."
Showing up to the conference in khakis and tie-less may have been a good, if glib, sign of just how new he is. Former employees say Levin has failed to deputize a leader within Time Warner who would've driven the company's Internet strategy. Pathfinder, Time Warner's smoking mess of a plan, fell apart; the much ballyhooed hub strategy never launched on his watch - raising questions on what, if anything, is actually different here.
Ted Turner Now: Vice Chairman, Time Warner Later: Vice Chairman, AOL Time Warner Clearly the resident celebrity at the press conference yesterday, Turner was awash in flashbulbs with every Southern-twang-inflected comment he made - particularly when he likened his voting for the merger to losing his virginity.
In the new landscape, he will have a diminished role from the one he had at Time Warner. While precise details of his duties remain unclear, he will remain on the sidelines as othes duke it out at AOL Time Warner. Still, Turner has never been one to cede the limelight to bosses.
President and COO, AOL Later: Co-COO, AOL Time Warner Pittman, the suave cofounder of MTV and most recently the turnaround guy for AOL, is credited as one of the few executives to have prospered in and between the old and the new worlds. As part of the specially created integration committee, he'll need every skill acquired over the years as he struggles to mediate the imminent clashes between the companies' staff. But being unoffically christened the heir apparent by the media this early in the game may not garner the goodwill he'll need from co-COO Richard Parsons. Regardless, Levin will be relying on Pittman to make it work.
Richard Parsons Now: President, Time Warner Later: Co-COO, AOL Time Warner Least showy of the gang, Parsons is the protege of the aggressive Levin.
Conservative by nature, the No. 2 guy at Time Warner has left some insiders wondering about his actual responsibilities. Turner, for instance, answers directly to Levin. Time Warner Digital Media CEO Richard Bressler also reports directly to Levin. But Parsons' skills at turning around companies don't go without notice. Levin tapped Parsons for the job after watching him successfully recover Dime Savings Bank in the '90s. In addition to his skills, Parsons also has the distinction of being the only person of color in the new company's upper echelon, as well as one of the most prominent black executives.
Amid the merger ebullience, he was the first executive to make any mention of the so-called digital divide.
Now: Chairman and CEO Time Warner Digital Media Later: part of a four person integration committee Prior to the merger, Bressler, 42, who was the former CFO at Time Warner, stepped into one of the highest profile jobs within Time Warner months before the merger. His reputation for being able to traipse carefully through the company's minefields, his role in the new company seems assured for at least a year as the two sides figure out how to make it work. But the limelight and seemingly assured status prior to the news may be jeopardized now that Pittman and Parsons will actually be running the show.
Now: Vice Chairman AOL Later: part of a four-person integration committee Mystery man Novack, 58, is one of Case's closest advisors in a small cadre of core memebers in the upper echelons of AOL. Once dubbed by Case as the "Henry Kissinger of AOL," Novack has been the point man on several of the most important deals for the growth of the company including AOL's acquisition of Mirabilis (the makers of instant messaging software ICQ), CompuServe, and Netscape. His reputation of being straightforward, honest and with having a deft touch on sensitive manners will serve him well here as he wades through potential landmines.