Former Time Warner Media CEO Gerald Levin dies at 84


Gerald Levin led Time Warner Media’s disastrous $182 billion merger with internet provider America Online, died on wednesday According to media reports, he was 84 years old.

Levine was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, but his cause of death was not immediately reported. The former executive’s grandson, Jake Maia Arlow, confirmed his death to The New York Times and The Washington Post but did not respond to a request for confirmation from The Associated Press.

Levin joined Time in the early 1970s, just as the company was beginning to shift its focus from print magazines to cable television. Levine, a lawyer-turned-idealist who spent several years working for an international development company in Colombia and Tehran, found himself drawn to the transformative potential of business, according to the 2004 book “Fools Rush.” , especially the potential of cable TV. Book written by journalist Nina Munk.

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At one point, Levine even compared his newfound enthusiasm to his previous development work, saying “there was little difference between water, electricity and television,” the book states. This perspective led him to a job in 1972 as vice president of programming at Time magazine’s fledgling cable network Home Box Office (later shortened to HBO).

Within two years, Levine, then HBO’s president, had convinced Time executives to invest $7.5 million to distribute HBO’s signal via satellite, eliminating the need for more expensive investments in laying cables or building microwaves. Network across the United States In September 1975, the link went live, allowing the company to broadcast live to HBO subscribers the highly anticipated boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, known as the “Manila thrilling”).

According to Munk’s book, Levine soon became known within the company as the “resident genius.” By 1980, he was running Time’s video group and biding his time. In 1987, he served as chief negotiator for a massive merger between Time magazine and Hollywood studio Warner Bros., and soon after, the executive was accused of blocking a hostile takeover by another studio. In 1990, he ultimately succeeded in acquiring Warner for $14.9 billion in an all-cash deal that saddled the combined company with debt.

It took Levine another two years to claim the title of Time Warner CEO and four more years to turn down additional offers and manage internal squabbles to get his next big idea off the ground. This is the so-called “information superhighway,” which Levine calls a full-service network. It was an early vision of an always-on, interactive entertainment and communications network that the company promoted but never really came to fruition. Meanwhile, Time Warner shares fell.

Levine and his deputies succeeded in completely ignoring the Internet, which ultimately succeeded in bringing full interactivity to homes, businesses and phones around the world. Of course, this isn’t obvious at first. It wasn’t until mid-1997, when Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates invested $1 billion in cable TV company Comcast to advance its Internet service plans, that investors began to recognize the value of cable TV networks as Internet providers.

Around the same time, AOL, one of the early pioneers of online social services, was looking for a way to use its Internet-bloated stock to acquire specific assets. Chief Executive Steve Case has set his sights on Time Warner, believing its tangible entertainment assets and cable networks are performing well. When Case finally called Levine, he not only suggested a merger but told Levine that a Time Warner executive should serve as CEO of the combined company.

Levine wasn’t interested. On paper, AOL is worth about twice as much as Time Warner, but to Levine, it appears to be overvalued due to Internet-related hysteria. But he agreed to have dinner with Case, just to chat.The two hit it off immediately, and on the night of November 1, 1999, they basically agreed “Merge of equals”.

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The two sides have argued over how much of the combined company they would each control, with AOL insisting on holding a majority stake as the stock price continues to rise. Finally, in the early morning of January 7, 2000, Time Warner agreed to accept a 45-55 split, with AOL holding the larger share. Three days later, The Wall Street Journal broke the news of the pending $182 billion deal, and the companies made a formal announcement later that morning.

Getting the deal, while a struggle, turned out to be the easy part. Even during negotiations, Levine’s people found their AOL counterparts to be rude and boisterous, while AOL’s people viewed Time Warner executives as slow, stodgy and unable to fully understand the value of the Internet. Those bad feelings didn’t fade over time, especially after AOL’s stock price plummeted during the dot-com bust.

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Levine held on as long as he could, but in the fall of 2001 he began considering acquiring AT&T’s cable system without consulting Case, who became furious when he learned of the move, sending him into a meltdown. Shortly after Thanksgiving, Case gave Levine an ultimatum: Resign or be fired by the board. Levine, thinking he was defeated, suddenly announced that he would retire early the following May.

In 2002, the company posted a loss of $98.7 billion, a record corporate loss. Time Warner dropped “AOL” from its name in 2003 and spun off AOL into an independent company in 2009, ending the merger for which Levine had worked so hard.



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By Ali Raza

I am a dedicated and skilled News Content Writer with a passion for delivering accurate and engaging stories to a diverse audience. With a solid background in journalism and a keen eye for detail, I bring a commitment to excellence and a deep understanding of the evolving media landscape.

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