We visited my sister in the Washington DC area this weekend – she works for AOL – things are, shall we say, hectic there right now.
Steve Case out as chairman in May – Richard Parsons takes over – no one sad but Mrs. Case:
- At a beefy 6-foot-4, AOL Time Warner Inc. chief executive Richard D. Parsons is a hard man to miss. Yet, when he walked into meetings with his new America Online colleagues shortly after the two companies merged in January 2001, people on the AOL side of the table “would just look right past him, like when you’re looking over someone’s shoulder to see who’s more important in the room,” one AOL Time Warner executive recalled yesterday.
Parsons would leave to work for President Bush, went the rumors around Time Warner’s New York headquarters. Or Robert W. Pittman, the since-departed chief operating officer, would soon be running everything, making Parsons irrelevant.
The announcement Sunday that Steve Case will yield the company chairmanship in May leaves Parsons alone at the top of the world’s largest media company. Long described as a conciliator and a fence mender, the genial Parsons will now receive the credit and the blame for whatever path AOL Time Warner takes. The judgments will begin soon, as Case is a lame-duck chairman.
When AOL Time Warner chief executive Gerald M. Levin resigned in December 2001 and Parsons was named as his replacement, “people were so shocked,” the executive said. Maybe they shouldn’t have been, given that, since 1995, Parsons had run Time Warner and sat on the company’s board.
Some felt Parsons was underestimated. One executive recalls being told: “People like Dick, Dick is smarter than they think, and he has more allies on the board than they think. He’s the most clever one of the group.”
There is already speculation that when Case exits the chairmanship Parsons will assume it, consolidating his power and leaving as the only relic of the blockbuster merger gone bust the company’s name, which, by May, may no longer include “AOL.” A company spokesman would not say whether Parsons wants the combined jobs, only that the board will “address the issue of finding a new chairman in due course.” The board can choose a new chairman from its group or go outside the company.
Neither Parsons nor Case would comment for this article. [Washington Post]