Investment head leaves AOL Time Warner

Richard Bressler, a key figure in the negotiations that brought about the mammoth merger, becomes the first high-level executive to say good-bye.

Jim Hu Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Jim Hu
covers home broadband services and the Net's portal giants.
Jim Hu
3 min read
AOL Time Warner has confirmed that Richard Bressler, its head of investments, is leaving the company for unstated reasons.

Bressler becomes the first high-level executive to leave the recently merged company's ranks. Questions persist over whether the two cultures of AOL and Time Warner will mix well or act more like oil and water. The ranks of upper management have thus far remained stable, despite the consolidation of the new company's television assets under the WB Network's Jamie Kellner and a round of layoffs after merging.

Bressler, one of the primary negotiators in hammering out the merger between America Online and Time Warner, has served as Time Warner's chief financial officer and the CEO of its digital media division. After the merger was announced, Bressler was tapped to lead Time Warner Investment, which would act as an investment and venture capital arm.

Kenneth Novack, AOL's primary negotiator, who has since become vice chairman of AOL Time Warner, will assume Bressler's responsibilities on an interim basis, according to a source close to the company.

Looking at the company's executive roll, AOL veterans are largely filling up the ranks. Although former Time Warner CEO Gerald Levin has retained his title as CEO of the merged company, executives from the AOL side now control positions including chairman (Steve Case), co-chief operating officer (Bob Pittman), CFO (J. Michael Kelly), general counsel (Paul Cappuccio), business development chief (David Colburn), investor relations head (Richard E. Hanlon) and a list of executive vice presidents such as communications chief Kenneth Lerer and former CompuServe executive Mayo Stuntz.

Aside from Levin, the only longstanding Time Warner executives who remain are co-COO Richard Parsons; Ted Turner, vice chairman and senior advisor; Ed Adler, senior vice president of corporate communications; Spencer Hays, deputy general counsel; and Andrew Kaslow, human resources chief.

An AOL Time Warner representative confirmed Bressler's departure and said the company wishes him well, but declined to provide a reason for his leaving or say where Bressler plans to go.

Many of Bressler's responsibilities have lost importance since the merger. Previously, as CEO of Time Warner Digital Media, Bressler was responsible for the company's Internet initiatives. The media giant, after shutting down its failed Web-content destination Pathfinder, pursued a strategy of creating a handful of "hubs" that would operate under Bressler.

Much of the digital media initiative was Time Warner's attempt to develop a successful Internet strategy after the embarrassing, and expensive, saga of Pathfinder. But when Time Warner announced its intention to merge with AOL, the landscape changed dramatically, leaving the usefulness of the digital media division in question.

AOL's Internet influence can be felt throughout all of Time Warner's online and offline initiatives. All of Time Inc.'s magazine sites now have a navigation bar on top of the screen that offers Web services through Netscape, also an AOL Time Warner asset.

Additionally, the AOL service has become a major promotional platform for new CD releases by Warner Music Group, or television programs produced by Warner Bros. and broadcast on the WB. AOL has also begun offering free subscription trials to Time Inc. magazines, and Time Warner Cable service.

Bressler's departure may put him in line as a candidate for an open chief financial officer position at media rival Viacom, The Wall Street Journal reported. Fred Reynolds, Viacom's former CFO, recently resigned.