Mr. Levin said AOL Time Warner will shake up its leadership team over the next six months to prepare for his retirement in May 2002.
Richard Parsons, 53, a Levin colleague since the old Time Warner company and currently one of two chief operating officers of the current media giant, will become CEO, while Robert Pittman, 48, the other co-COO, becomes the sole chief operating officer.
'Madison Avenue's man'
Mr. Parsons had been talked about for a role in the new Bush Administration in January. Mr. Pittman has become known as Madison Avenue's man in the new company as he has tried to build synergies with the idea of making multi-platform ad deals a company cornerstone.
Steve Case, 43, the builder of the old America Online, will remain as chairman. The chief executive officers of the company's multi-faceted divisions from Warner Bros. to Turner
Mr. Levin led the acquisitions of Warner Communications, Turner Broadcasting System and then the AOL merger, taking Time Inc. to the vanguard of the international media elite.
'Begin this succession process'
"After spending virtually my entire career at this great company, it is obviously a major decision for me to begin this succession process," Mr. Levin said in a statement. "But this is a step that I have been thinking about for some time and whose time has come.''
Mr. Levin began his involvement with what is now AOL Time Warner in the early 1970s with HBO. Lately, he has advocated that much of AOL Time Warner's future lies in a subscription model, in which consumers pay for content, including the fledgling video-on-demand services.