Parsons: AOL Spinoff a Possibility

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New York -- Time Warner Inc. chairman and CEO Richard Parsons told the audience at its annual shareholders’ meeting here Friday that while the media giant sees no need to spin off its America Online Inc. unit in the near term, it is keeping its options open.

Parsons said last week in an interview with Fortune magazine that an AOL spinoff would be considered if the online giant does not capture as much of the Internet-advertising market as expected.

At the annual meeting, Parsons said any AOL spinoff would only be made if Time Warner saw an opportunity to participate in the consolidation of the Internet space. He likened it to the same opportunity inherent in its planned spinoff of Time Warner Cable -- after its pending merger with Adelphia Communications Corp. is completed -- expected in the next nine to 12 months.

“AOL is an extremely important part of our company,” he said. “I like to think that even though it may not have worked out exactly as people had hoped and thought -- including myself -- when the merger was announced in the early part of this decade, it is now clear to me and it’s clear to our management that [AOL] is our play in the fastest-growing sector of the economy.”

Parsons added that one of the reasons for the Time Warner Cable spinoff is to create a deal currency to participate in further consolidation in the cable industry, and that management has discussed the possibility of creating an AOL stock to participate in any consolidation in the Internet space.

“We have concluded at this point in time that it doesn’t appear that there’s a need for [an Internet currency],” Parsons said. “But we keep that in our sights so that we can maximize the value of that company. We would never want to lose [AOL], but we just may want to empower it to do some things it can’t now do.”

Parsons also reiterated Time Warner’s interest in Cablevision Systems Corp. Cablevision CEO James Dolan said at his own annual shareholders’ meeting Thursday that while he believes a sale is unlikely, he would be open to offers.

Parsons said at the Friday meeting that whether and when Cablevision would come up for sale is entirely up to its controlling shareholders, the Dolan family.

“When they do [decide to sell], we’ll be there,” he said, adding that he would not pay an inappropriately high price for the assets.

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