AOL’s exec search engine

Headhunters scour for Pittman replacement

NEW YORK — AOL Time Warner has stepped up its search for a new head of America Online, but the company insisted Friday the move has no bearing on the future of current topper Bob Pittman, also the chief operating officer of AOL TW.

Yet Pittman’s tenure has been an open question since he was passed over for the CEO post at AOL TW late last year in favor of Richard Parsons. America Online launched several executive shuffles since then and shares of the parent company sank in anticipation of more upheaval at the troubled unit.

The stock closed down 4% at $13.14 on Friday.

Headhunter hired

A company spokeswoman confirmed that the conglom hired executive search firm Spencer Stuart to fill the AOL post formerly held by Barry Schuler.

As subscriber growth and ad revenue faltered, Schuler exited late last year and former AOL exec Pittman was dispatched from New York to Dulles, Va., to turn around the big Internet service provider. Company noted that Pittman’s appointment was always meant to be temporary and that he still has a larger role in the giant media conglom.

CEO Richard Parsons had promised Wall Street an update on Pittman’s progress, but no date has been set for that. The company is scheduled to report its second-quarter financial results on July 24.

Moving Pittman to oversee AOL was seen by some on Wall Street as a masterstroke by Parsons. Pittman had pulled AOL through hard times in the past, and if he succeeded it would remove one of the biggest clouds hanging over the parent company. If not, he’d take the fall.

AOL TW is considering both internal and external candidates for the AOL post.

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