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Internet

AOL exec calls merger detractors "boogeymen"

Ted Leonsis, America Online's president of interactive properties, defends the company's proposed merger with Time Warner at an industry conference in San Francisco.

    America Online executive Ted Leonsis today defended the company's proposed merger with Time Warner at an industry conference in San Francisco.

    Speaking for an audience of 1,300 investment bankers and media insiders at the two-day Tech 2000 conference, the president of interactive properties called the company's critics "boogeymen" who failed to see that AOL would be "uniquely positioned to lead the new Internet revolution."

    AOL executives are to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow to discuss the planned merger; on Thursday they will meet with a Commerce subcommittee.

    Robertson Stephens, which is sponsoring the conference, today became the latest brokerage firm to recommend AOL's stock as a good buy, Leonsis told the audience. His comments came as investors are warming to the deal after initial misgivings.

    Shortly after the historic agreement announced Jan. 10, investors were less optimistic after watching shares in both companies slide.

    AOL today gained $1, bringing You've got
Time Warnershares to $60.63 at the close of regular trading at 1 p.m. PST, while Time Warner's stock rose $2.69 to $86.69.

    Leonsis said that once Wall Street understands the merger better, investors will look more favorably upon the alliance. "It's hard for them to understand the deal right now," he said.

    He added that he is confident the deal will be approved before the end of the year.