Mega-conglom girds for next CEO's strategies
So what will life be like in Bewkestan?The world’s biggest media company, Time Warner, will imminently get a new CEO, and its 96,000 denizens (indeed, the industry in general) are eager to discover what changes Jeffrey L. Bewkes will make. To be sure, Bewkes himself, a feisty, tightly wound TW lifer, isn’t talking — and understandably so. Why reveal your strategy in a chess game as unruly as that raging in and around this corporate monolith? Some companies (Google) are the result of a great idea. TW is the result of a series of corporate collisions. Indeed, TW is not so much a company as it is a combustible confederation of five distinct businesses, some of which have little relevance to one another. Though it leads the field in many sectors, TW shares have been inert for several years, while competitors have shown lively growth. So can Bewkes energize this unwieldy corporate nation-state with its $44 billion in revenues? Plow through the journalistic pieces or analysts’ reports on TW and you grow both numb and disheartened. The corporate history is too battle-scarred and there are too many bodies lying beside the road — Levin, Case, Pittman, Nicholas, Collins, Fuchs et al. Yet there’s a stalwart band of Bewkes admirers in the media business who are convinced that Bewkestan will be a far healthier place in the coming months — leaner and mobilized for improved growth. To bring this about, of course, the new CEO (he’s scheduled to succeed Dick Parsons) will have to confront an array of daunting questions:
- Can AOL be spun off or somehow meshed with a rival portal and can it push the transition from a subscription model to an advertising model? (Bewkes had fervently hoped six years ago that AOL would opt to acquire eBay, not TW, but he lost that round).
- Can TW Cable, which is 84% owned by TW, be reconfigured as a separate entity that will be free to discover its own role in the chaotic digital universe?