Time Warner Drops AOL Brand


As expected, the board of directors of AOL Time Warner Inc. voted Thursday to
rename the company Time Warner Inc. and to change its New York Stock Exchange
ticker symbol to "TWX," Time Warner Inc.’s ticker symbol before its 2001 merger
with America Online Inc.

The change, in the makings for about one month, is expected to occur over the
next few weeks, the company said in a prepared statement.

"We believe that our new name better reflects the portfolio of our valuable
businesses and ends any confusion between our corporate name and the America
Online brand name for our investors, partners and the public," chairman and CEO
Dick Parsons said in a prepared statement.

Although several Time Warner veterans had been pressing for the removal of
the AOL name for more than one year, the company gave no indication that it
would do so until last month. That’s when Jonathan Miller, who was hired as
chairman and CEO of the AOL unit last year, sent a memo to employees calling for
the split.

In the August memo, Miller expressed concern that AOL represented the entire
media and entertainment company in the minds of consumers, and not just the
online unit.

"The three letters AOL have ceased to stand for the Internet and the promise
it entails, and instead have become the shorthand for the world’s largest media
company," Miller said in the August memo. "As AOL Time Warner became known as,
for all intents and purposes, ‘AOL,’ any controversy or criticism involving the
corporate entity has actually hit our consumer brand … I believe it’s time to
get our brand back."

The AOL Time Warner name had also become a symbol for failed mergers. In the
past two years, several of the key architects of the merger have left the
company, including former CEO Gerry Levin, chairman Steve Case and chief
operating officer Bob Pittman. Case remains on the board of directors.

Once thought to be the perfect marriage between new and old media, the merger
quickly unraveled as AOL began to lose subscribers and was unable to land
broadband-carriage agreements with cable operators.

Last year, AOL got into deeper trouble after the Securities and Exchange
Commission began investigating accounting irregularities at the online unit,
particularly involving the way it booked advertising revenue.

Investor reaction was lukewarm to the move. AOL Time Warner shares rose 14
cents each to $16.45 per share Thursday.