My Turn

Jerry Levin’s New Life

7/10/2007 8:15 AM

New York magazine’s cover story this week is about Katie Couric’s tough time as CBS Evening News anchor, but an even better read is inside: a catch-up with former Time Warner CEO Jerry Levin and his wife, Laurie, at Moonview, their holistic healing center in Santa Monica.

It’s a thorough and balanced piece by Seth Stevenson about Levin’s evolution since getting forced out of Time Warner after the disastrous merger (that he championed) with America Online. And about how the AOL debacle and, more significantly, the 1997 murder of his son Jonathan, a 31-year-old school teacher in the Bronx, N.Y., have changed him.

Both events played a part in his meeting his second wife, a former CAA agent and film producer. She says Jonathan Levin “spoke” to her while she was meditating after she did a Google search on Levin; she’d been researching Levin after he agreed to meet with her for the first time.

There’s support here for Levin’s new outlook and venture – a $175,000 per year facility that uses techniques like neurofeedback “brain painting” and ceremonial drumming circles — from successor Dick Parsons and from Michael Eisner, the former Disney CEO. And some bitchy anonymous comments about Levin and how he dealt with people over his 30-year corporate career.

The sharpest swipes on the record are from Michael Fuchs, the former HBO chief whom Levin fired. “No one has ever left a company more disliked than he was,” says Fuchs.

Levin acknowledges flaws while speaking of them like they were in a past life, when his motivation was that he thought he knew better than anyone what was best for his company.

“I had the arrogance of power,” he says. “The ability to do things, to fly anywhere, and whether I was being written about positively or negatively, it didn’t matter because I was always written about. That suffuses into your identity.”

Now, he takes part in therapy sessions at Moonview that attempt to “break down male culture” and encourage patient listening and understanding. He’s found the “belief system” he says he lacked as a business leader:

“There was the ‘me’ that was doing that,” he says, speaking about his time as a suit-clad warrior, “and the ‘me’ that was observing what was going on. I’m kind of looking at myself participating in negotiations, board meetings, shareholder meetings, speeches—I would kind of wind myself up and go in and perform. I stopped paying attention to myself, let alone my family.”

Levin, 68, also discloses he has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and says he has no regrets or any wish for a “do-over.”

It’s a long piece, with enough to let you judge for yourself whether Levin’s experience is relevant to your own life. I recommend it without regret.