Jeff Bewkes, the Svengali who formerly ran Home Box Office and conjured such mega-hits as Sex in the City and The Sopranos, appears set to inherit the Time Warner crown.

On Wednesday Bewkes (53), currently in charge of TW's cable networks and film studios, was named president and chief operating officer - an appointment seen by insiders as tantamount to Crown Prince.

Bewkes, along with Don Logan, was nominated joint-deputy to chairman/ceo Richard H Parsons when the latter assumed the TW throne in the summer of 2002. Logan, however, will retire at the end of 2005.

Bewkes is said to combine a rare mix of creative and commercial skills, underwritten by an MBA from Stanford University. He's no slouch at career-planning either, having insisted on a clause in his contract that allows him to quit with a truckload of dollars if on Logan's retirement he (Bewkes) wasn't named chief operating officer by January 1, 2006.

Lauds Parsons: "[Bewkes is] probably the most talented executive ... in the media and entertainment space and if he were ultimately to become my successor, I couldn't be happier."

Ever the diplomat, though, Parsons hastily added that that it is for the TW board to formally designate Bewkes as heir apparent. Parsons also made it clear that he's still welded to the throne: "I don't have retirement on my mind," he insists.

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