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Ted Leonsis


Title:President, America Online Services Co., Vienna, Va.; chairman-CEO, 2Market, San Mateo, Calif.; president, Redgate Communications Corp., Vero Beach, Fla.

Bio:Born in Brooklyn, N.Y. B.A. in American studies, Georgetown University, 1977.

Work history:Corporate communications manager for Wang Laboratories, then Harris Corp., before launching Redgate Publishing in 1983. Company was renamed Redgate Communications Corp. as its focus expanded into the interactive world. Redgate was acquired by America Online in 1994 for $35 million.

Long before the phrase "new media" was known by much of the world, Ted Leonsis was its evangelist.

From his days as a 23-year-old corporate communications manager with Wang Laboratories, Mr. Leonsis surmised early on that traditional advertising agencies were not prepared to deliver custom integrated communications for high-tech clients.

Using knowledge gained as a client, he opened what was to become one of the first new-media agencies.

"Red" for hot and "gate" for the entrance to something new, the agency was launched in Vero Beach, Fla., just south of the state's burgeoning high-tech and aerospace community in Melbourne. Mr. Leonsis quickly found himself a "bleeding edge" preacher, extolling to newcomers the power of online services, fax on demand, CD-ROM.

It was only in 1995 that the convergence of computers bundled with modems and easily linked with online services-all embraced by an increasingly eager population-made the market "click."

Put another way, the interactive revolution hit "the day my wife and father-in-law went online," he said.

Mr. Leonsis is riding a speedy but feisty horse these days, overseeing all aspects of the AOL brand, including content, marketing, product development and new business. AOL has been on a tear for the past year, surpassing 3 million subscribers recently and aggressively nurturing new content in its Greenhouse program.

"These major tectonic shifts in new technology always seem to take longer than the evangelists and experts think it will take to become mainstream," he said. "But then once it clicks, it gains momentum and moves into the mainstream faster than anyone would have predicted."

Betcha didn't know:Mr. Leonsis doesn't spend much personal time online anymore, but he does answer 300 e-mails daily (50 before 7 a.m., many with only a sentence and scant salutations).

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