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The AOL Time Warner succession - chairs scraping along the boardroom floor

Must be the time for appointing successors...
Written by silicon.com staff, Contributor

Must be the time for appointing successors...

There are one or two headhunting firms having a fine time at the moment. One of the top corporate posts in the UK - the chief executive position at BT - is up for grabs, and anyone who follows football will know Manchester United are also in the market for a manager to follow Sir Alex. (To be honest, we'd be lying if we said we know football clubs use headhunting firms but you know what we mean.) Most followers of things media and new media thought speculation would only begin about the CEO post at AOL Time Warner in a year or two. The current boss, Gerry Levin, still officially has a couple of years to put in, or at least that's what we thought. Now it has been announced Dick Parsons will take over and every analyst in the western world is saying they're surprised. Congratulations, Mr Parsons. But let's take a moment to consider a couple of other people at the media giant right now. So far attention has fallen on Levin's decision to retire early. We contend the real issue is that Parsons comes from the Time Warner stable, not the AOL side of the marriage - the same side that stumped up the $106bn to make the deal possible just under two years ago. Steve Case will remain chairman, so we'll have to stop calling him the CEO-in-waiting. He is also the same man who, because of his role in creating the internet boom and what we thought would be an increasing influence in world corporate affairs at the helm of AOL Time Warner, was voted as our Agenda Setter for 2001 back in the spring of this year. If we ran a book, we could now say the money is off a repeat poll-topping performance next year. However, the really clever money was perhaps always on Bob Pittman, Case's right-hand man at AOL, and the respected leader known for building up MTV in the 1980s. The rumour mill has it that Levin bowed out early partly to avoid a takeover battle that could have split the company along the lines of its pre-merger roots, with the Pittman and Parsons camps fighting on opposing side. But that we'll maybe never know for sure. What is clear now is that old media savvy - the type that makes Parsons as respected in DC as he is in Manhattan - has asserted itself in a company that stands for new economy muscle. And that is one thing that shouldn't surprise us.
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