Amid all the headlines that Time Warner (TWX) CEO Jeff Bewkes is “open” to an AOL deal (he’s not just open to it–he’s actively talking to Yahoo and probably others), that AOL will miss Q2, that AOL is “disintegrating”–and amid investor conferences in which Jeff is asked question after question about nothing but the sad state of AOL (occasionally punctuated by one about the sad state of Time Warner Cable (TWC)–it’s time to take a step back and give Jeff credit for what he isn’t saying:
“I’ve always hated AOL.”
Why could Jeff be saying that? Because it’s true. Unlike all his brethren at Time Warner, Jeff refused to play along with the AOL-Time Warner hype back in 2000 and 2001 when the combo was supposed to be the merger of the century. Jeff didn’t trash the deal–that’s not his style–but back in those days, when he was a mere division head running HBO, his every facial expression, gesture, and some-things-are-better-left-unsaid demurrals made it crystal clear how much he hated it. Hated the price, hated the hype, hated the arrogant AOL team’s condescending pretense that they would finally show Time Warner how to run a business.
And now, at the pinnacle of his career, Jeff has ascended to throne of what was once the greatest media conglomerate in the world. And his every waking moment, it seems, is consumed with having to clean up his predecessors gigantic mess.
Being the CEO of any Fortune 500 company, no matter how beleaguered, is hardly a bummer of a job. And Jeff presumably had a hand in the dark post-deal days when Time Warner’s fury at AOL resulted in the company missing music, VOIP, high-speed ISP, and a dozen other oppotunities that it should have owned. (As Jeff so bluntly put it, in his opinion, synergy is “b.s.”)
But still… As Jeff tries to figure out what to do with $10-$15 billion worth of inherited, discombobulated wreckage–and, as long as he’s in his current role, get blamed for it–he should get at least some credit for not saying, “I told you so.”