Levin stepping down as AOL Time Warner CEO

AP Business WriterNEW YORK (AP) -- AOL Time Warner Inc. chief executive Jerry Levin is stepping down as head of the world's largest media company and will be replaced by co-chief operating officer Richard Parsons.

Steve Case will remain as chairman, while the company's other co-COO, Robert Pittman, will become the sole COO, according to Wednesday's announcement.

Levin, 62, will retire at the company's board meeting in May 2002 following a six-month transition.

"After spending virtually my entire career at this great company, it is obviously a major decision for me to begin this succession process," Levin said in a statement. "But this is a step that I have been thinking about for some time and whose time has come.

"Given that we are almost a full year into the merger and that an outstanding management team is now in place at the company, I am convinced that AOL Time Warner should begin an orderly transition to a new era of leadership."

AOL Time Warner was formed earlier this year after the $106 billion combination America Online and Time Warner. The deal brought together the world's largest online service, which now has more than 32 million subscribers, and a huge media company, with such properties as cable network CNN and HBO, movie studio Warner Bros. and magazines such as Time, People and Sports Illustrated.

Levin joined Time Inc. in 1972 to help develop a new cable service called Home Box Office and was instrumental in the 1975 decision to distribute its programs nationally by satellite, a key element in bringing about the development of the modern cable industry.

Following Time Inc.'s merger with Warner Communications Inc. in 1990, Levin served as vice chairman and chief operating office, ascending to the co-CEO role in February 1992 with Steve Ross.

When Ross died in December, Levin took over as sole CEO. Over the next decade, Levin helped expand Time Warner's scope and scale, including a landmark 1995 deal in which Time Warner bought Turner Broadcasting Systems Inc.

Following the AOL-Time Warner deal, which was announced in January 2000 but took nearly a year to be completed, there was speculation over what role Levin might take in the new company, especially as the deal was structured as an acquisition of Time Warner.

In a recent interview with The New Yorker magazine, Levin said that his working relationship with Case, the cofounder of AOL, was strong and said that he had no timetable for retiring.

"For me, personally, this is the best it's ever been," he said. "It's probably facilitated because I certainly have no personal agendas. I'm not running for office. I'm not looking for anyone's approbation."

The shuffle at the top of AOL Time Warner did not bother Wall Street, where shares of the company were off 1 cent to $34.74 in trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

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