AOL TW swallows merger moolah

Levin: Strong interest in Cablevision stake

NEW YORK — AOL Time Warner has taken a hefty $965 million restructuring charge due mainly to workforce reductions and the shuttering of its studio store business, according to a Securities & Exchange Commission filing this week.

Separately, CEO Gerald Levin, speaking at the company’s annual shareholder meeting Thursday, indicated strong interest in an eventual combination of AOL Time Warner and Cablevision Systems.

According to the filing, the charge includes $565 million for employee termination benefits. Some $40 million of that was paid out last quarter. AOL Time Warner announced 2,400 layoffs after its merger closed in January.

The other $400 million came mostly from terminating leases and contracts largely from the Warner Bros. Stores.

Conglom also expensed $70 million in the first quarter for a revamp at AOL. The larger figure, which surprised Wall Street, appeared in a revised quarterly report.

Company said there could be additional charges as it continues to streamline and examine its cost base.

Meanwhile, chairman Steve Case and Levin turned on the charm for shareholders at the annual meet at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, treating the crowd of hundreds to clips of upcoming projects including New Line’s “Lord of the Rings,” WB’s “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” and “Harry Potter” and the Steven Spielberg/Tom Hanks HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers.”

Gotham empire

Asked by one shareholder if AOL Time Warner was interested in buying AT&T’s 30% stake in Cablevision, Levin said AOL hasn’t made a move since the stake carries no path to control. But, he added, “It would be a very interesting company to put all the cable systems in the New York metropolitan area together.”

Time Warner dominates the New York City cable market. Cablevision’s systems are strong in outlying suburbs and Long Island.

AOL Time Warner shares were up 1.5% to $53.82.

Cablevision shares rose 2.4% to $57.93.