Time Warner CEO Richard D. Parsons
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Asked about the way he sees his role heading into 2008, when President-Chief Operating Officer Jeffrey L. Bewkes will almost certainly succeed Mr. Parsons, he compared CEO stints to stages in a relay race. "I used to run track and I ran relays," Mr. Parsons said. "I'm running a leg of this race -- in this case to pick the baton off the dirt."
'The passing lane'
That line, a reference to the unhappy period after Time Warner merged with AOL, got big laughs. But now he's all about the passing lane, in which relay runners hand the baton off to the next runner.
"We're in that passing lane, Jeff and I," Mr. Parsons said.
That said, Mr. Parsons also defended Time Warner's businesses from questions that often revolved around spinning off one or another of the conglomerate's units. On spinning of Time Inc., for example, he said he didn't anticipate doing that. The magazine division is growing again, helped mightily by online advertising as many print publishers struggle to sell pages, he said.
AOL isn't going anywhere any time soon either, Mr. Parsons said. "Let's see what we can build," he said, dismissing the idea that an independent AOL would have better currency -- its own stock instead of complicated Time Warner shares -- with which to make acquisitions.
Keeping an open mind
It does sound as if Time Warner eventually will sell off AOL's internet-access business, now that the unit has reverted to a free ad-supported model, but Mr. Parsons said no one could know for sure. "This world changes so quickly that you never want to set your sails and say, 'I'm going that way.'"
But Time Warner is open-minded about the possibility of spinning off Time Warner Cable entirely. Time Warner Cable went public last February, so it's already in position if that kind of decision came down. "We are evaluating that again," Mr. Parsons said. "We're at least in the zone where we could start to plan on doing something next year."