AOL Shunts Execs Sideways in Senior Management Overhaul

13 September 2002

Yet more blood on the carpet at America Online, the internet unit of the world’s largest media company AOL Time Warner.

It is the first publicly visible move by new AOL chairman/ceo Jonathan F Miller, the third occupant of that post with in year at the troubled unit. This, he hopes, will pave the way to new, wider-reaching interactive programming, and consign to history AOL’s notorious accounting problems.

Out go two AOL staffers whose close association with Robert W Pittman, Miller’s ousted forerunner, made them marked men. Vice chairman and chief marketing executive Jan Brandt, responsible for carpet-bombing the globe with AOL free trial CDs, becomes ‘an advisor to the company’; while a similar fate has befallen Ray Oglethorpe, the division’s president.

Down goes J Michael Kelly, previously responsible for AOL’s accounting as chief operating officer. He is demoted for the second time in two years, his duties now shrunk to chairing AOL’s international division with oversight of the European and Latin American markets, plus the AOL Anywhere service for cellphone-users.

Up come Joseph Ripp and Ted Leonsis. The former as vice chairman in charge of technology and infrastructure, a behind-the-scenes role that will oversee most of AOL’s employees; the latter, already a vice chairman, will work with Miller on strategic planning.

Also handed a key to the executive washroom is Lisa Hook, of Time Warner antecedence and now head of the AOL Broadband division. She reports directly to Miller, a sign of the importance he attaches to broadband development – unlike his deposed predecessor. Says Miller: “This organization wasn't clear about broadband in the recent past. Now we are in it to win it.”

Miller also touched on the thorny subject of ad sales wheeler-dealing. “We need a sales force, not a deal force,” he said. In future, business affairs staff will be assigned to selling ads for specific parts of AOL’s service rather than nationwide deals and swaps. He also intends to impose greater accountability on all managers: “I believe in accountability, both in a business sense and a legal sense.”

Observed analyst Jordan Rohan: “This company is becoming more and more like Time Warner and less like AOL.”

Data sourced from: New York Times; additional content by WARC staff