AOL TW Mulls Melding of Chairman and CEO Roles

14 January 2003

High on the agenda at AOL Time Warner’s upcoming board meeting later this week is whether to offer the role of chairman [vacated unwillingly at the weekend by incumbent Stephen M Case, WAMN 13-Jan-03] to its existing chief executive officer Richard H Parsons.

Such a move would not only still much of the infighting and maneuvring for position that has swept through the group’s executive suites for the past several months – it would also save a few bucks into the bargain.

The board will meet Thursday to consider the position.

According to a selection of anonymous comments collated by, few tears are being shed for the departing Case, who some insiders believe was imposing his own personal agenda on the business and profiteering accordingly.

“From most parts of the business, there's no love lost,” said one senior executive from the Time Warner wing of the company. “His vision coupled with his profiteering” [press reports held that Case sold more than $100 million of company stock after the merger] while everyone else got hammered, I think, didn't endear him to non-AOL staffers.”

Continued the critic: “[Former ceo Gerald] Levin, in spite of how many people were disappointed in his last flourish, did not profit from it,” referring to reports of Levin’s financial setbacks that surfaced in Monday’s New York Times. “You don't get that from Steve Case,” this executive concluded.

“I admire him for making this decision,” opined another insider, who added the inevitable ... ‘but’ ... “Case didn't have a hands-on feel for the other businesses” at AOL Time Warner.

Nevertheless, Case still has his allies, one of whom attempted to undermine Parsons. “One of the most positive features of the merger was it allowed a separate chairman and chief executive role,” he hissed. “Given that Parsons is not proven in the chief executive role to make him chairman as well would be one job too many. Even in America it would be a controversial thing to do.”

There is no truth in the rumor of a brisk trade in Kevlar-backed shirts within the simmering media mammoth.

Data sourced from: Financial Times and; additional content by WARC staff