Time Warner’s Ex-CEO Apologizes, Preaches Brand Integrity

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What a difference a decade makes.

AOL is now Aol. (period included). Time Warner remains scarred by a $164B loss. And former chief executive Gerald Levin says he’s sorry.

Levin, who conducted the “worst deal of the century” by merging AOL with Time Warner Cable, admitted his failures in a recent CNBC appearance. He also used the opportunity to reach out to today’s corporate CEOs and urge them to assume responsibility for America’s financial crisis. Among the financial brands targeted were Citigroup, AIG, Lehman Brothers, and Bear Stearns.

“Where is the stand-up leadership that’s going to take responsibility for what’s happened and do something about it?” he asked.[more]

Though Levin defended the overall vision that backed the AOL deal, he did admit that he neglected to take employee opinions into consideration and pursue any significant level of brand engagement. Levin’s CNBC comments expressed regret for waiting such a long time to take his own advice. His appearance clearly depicted an individual who was overwhelmed by the politics and greed found in business — though cynics may find that hard to believe. Levin, who now runs an addiction rehabilitation center in Santa Monica, California, says of his past life:

“It’s a little hard to exercise compassion, connection and love when the market is very unforgiving.”

But time hasn’t healed everything, at least not yet. Levin’s call for corporate responsibility comes amid a much-publicized dispute between News Corp. and Time Warner over rebroadcasting fees — a disagreement caused by the restriction of public access to some cable channels.

Though the companies have now reportedly settled their differences, there is much public angst over exactly why cable bill fees are supposed to increase. 

Perhaps we’ll know more in ten years.

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