A Time For Bold Leadership

Richard Parson's deal-making prowess and diplomatic touch has catapulted him to become CEO of AOL Time Warner,the world's largest media powerhouse

report to Parsons. (Case, the founder of AOL, will remain chairman.)

David Joyce, an equity analyst at Guzman & Co., an investment banking firm in Miami, points out that Parsons is lead negotiator in the media conglomerate’s bidding war (along with Microsoft Corp., Cox Communications Inc., and Comcast Cable) for cable television operator AT&T Broadband. Should AOL Time Warner have the winning bid, the deal is sure to be chock-full of regulatory snafus. AT&T Broadband, a division of AT&T Corp., has 14.4 million subscribers as of June 30, 2001, making it the largest in the industry. Time Warner Cable is No. 2 with 12.67 million subscribers, according to the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.

Parsons has also demonstrated vision and can effectively communicate and execute strategic plans. “What he brings to the table is that he’s probably more effective as a big-picture thinker than Pittman,” Kessler adds. “Pittman is a more logical choice for COO because basically he’s a great operations guy, and you really need someone who’s more visionary oriented for [the CEO slot], and Dick Parsons fits that mold.”

Also, expect the new corporate chief to offer more realistic financial goals. When the two companies merged, management promised annual revenue growth of 12% to 15%. Because of a weaker advertising environment, revenue growth is expected to be closer to 5% to 7% next year. This news did not give investors warm fuzzies.

Parsons will need to summon his impressive diplomatic skills to unify the old economy stalwart Time Warner and the young
er, new economy structure from AOL. “My sense is that Parsons is truly a statesman and that’s really what you need in a CEO’s position,” says Joyce. “He’s got a really even keeled, witty temperament about him and that’s maybe what’s settled factions within the company. He’s got an ability to coalesce the different factions.”

A self-proclaimed “Type B” personality, the New York native made his bones in politics and finance. And throughout his career, the graduate of the University of Hawaii and Union University’s Albany Law School has presented himself as a roll-up-your-sleeves leader with a combination of sound judgment and accessibility. “I’m kind of a lunch-pail manager,” says the laid-back Parsons. “Where Jerry Levin was more cerebral and strategically focused as a CEO, I will tend to demonstrate more of an in-the-trenches style of leadership. I like to be with the troops.”

That can-do attitude has served him well. Before he was 30, he served as an assistant counselor to Republican New York Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller; deputy counsel to Rockefeller (when he became vice president in the Ford administration); and associate director of the White House’s Domestic Council. He left Washington, D.C., in 1977 and spent more than a decade at the Wall Street firm Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler.

By 1988, he was tapped to become the president and COO of Dime Savings Bank. Two years later, he became CEO. In that role, he pumped life into a bank virtually on life support. In 1990, when bank

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