AOL is Dead – Long Live AOL!

19 September 2003

As widely expected, the board of AOL Time Warner voted Thursday to drop the AOL prefix from its corporate title and revert to the safe and established appellation Time Warner. Symbolically, to mark the change where it matters most, the group’s stock ticker symbol will also return to its original ‘TWX’.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “Free at last!” was the cry echoing around the water coolers in the planet’s largest media company, a paean to the power shift in its corporate ranks. The rechristening will bite within a few weeks.

However, AOL, the brand, remains alive, well (or as well as can be expected), and living in almost every developed nation across the world. “We need the freedom to let the brand name AOL stand once again on its own,” was the rallying-call of the ISP’s ceo Jonathan F Miller, who believes that the brand has been harmed by negative press coverage of the corporate parent’s problems.

But: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” sourly observed former AOL executive Myer Berlow, one of the group’s early plank-walkers. "I only hope the external market thinks this is as important as the internal market did.”

• Separately, Time Warner’s negotiations proceed apace with Britain's EMI Group to hammer out a merger between their respective recorded music businesses.

Although a done deal remains below the horizon, this week’s acceleration of pace indicates that EMI is now the preferred partner – rather than Bertelsmann with whom exclusive negotiations had been in train.

The latter, however, remains in the frame. Despite its internal distractions, TW is a canny enough operator to realise that keeping two swains dangling from the same rope fuels their ardor more effectively than any erectile drug.

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff