Levin: Merger Is on Track


New York-Despite reports that the European Union was dragging its feet in its review of the $123 billion merger between Time Warner Inc. and America Online Inc., Time Warner chairman Gerald Levin reassured shareholders that the marriage will continue as planned.

Levin, speaking at a special shareholders' meeting to approve the deal, said the European Union is moving forward in the approval process.

"The European Union has its own process for merger review," he said. "We've been through the first phase, and we are entering the second phase, which traditionally is a four-month detailed review. That process has begun, and it is consistent with our declaration to close in the fall."

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission are also reviewing the merger.

Levin said he was unconcerned about regulatory approval because of the nature of the deal-the combination of diverse old- and new-media assets with virtually no overlap.

Time Warner shareholders overwhelmingly approved the merger, with more than 99 percent voting in its favor. In a separate meeting near AOL headquarters in Virginia, 97 percent of AOL shareholders voted in favor of the deal.

At the meeting, Levin also reassured shareholders that Time Warner vice chairman Ted Turner, who was not present, would continue to play a vital role in the company. "Ted has moral authority in our company. That's very hard to come by," he said.

Levin declined to talk about the negotiations between Time Warner and AT & T Corp. regarding AT & T's ownership stake in Time Warner Entertainment or any possible telephony deals between the two companies. But he did say the companies were in negotiations.

Earlier this month, Time Warner signed off on the merger between AT & T and MediaOne Group Inc., which Levin called "the right thing to do."