- The Washington Times - Friday, July 19, 2002

AOL Time Warner Inc. Chief Operating Officer Robert Pittman said yesterday he will leave the media giant.
The AOL Time Warner board of directors accepted Mr. Pittman's resignation during a meeting in the offices of the online division in Sterling, Va.
Sources said Mr. Pittman, 48, simply grew tired of taking the blame for AOL's disappointing performance.
"The guy just said, 'I'm done,'" a source within the company said.
It was not clear whether Mr. Pittman, a Mississippi native and the son of a Methodist minister, was going to be fired if he didn't resign.
"He just got sick of it, said, 'I'm out of here, I can't take it anymore,' and they were pretty quick to comply," the source said.
Mr. Pittman took over the AOL unit just three months ago, returning to AOL from his management position at corporate headquarters to replace Chief Executive Officer Barry Schuler. Reviving flagging advertising sales was among Mr. Pittman's top priorities. Advertising revenue at AOL fell 7.1 percent in the fourth quarter last year, the first quarterly decline at the unit. It fell another 31 percent in the first quarter.
Mr. Pittman's oversight of AOL was intended to be a temporary assignment while AOL Time Warner found a new chief executive for the online business, and last week the company said it had hired a search firm to find a someone to lead the Internet division.
But yesterday Mr. Pittman said he will leave the company once a new AOL chief executive is named later this year.
"I've decided that after a new CEO is in place at AOL, I won't return," Mr. Pittman said in a statement. "Having worked so hard to build the AOL service and brand, and after going through the merger and the last 18 months, it's time to take a break."
Mr. Pittman started at AOL on Oct. 29, 1996, and helped build the company into a revenue-generating machine by persuading AOL founder Steve Case to increase AOL's monthly fee in 1998 by 10 percent, to $21.95.
Mr. Pittman was already an accomplished businessman when he arrived at AOL. He is one of the co-founders of MTV.
But he was unable to turn around the online division of the new company, and that inertia has slowed AOL Time Warner.
Since AOL announced it would buy Time Warner in Jan. 2001, its stock price has fallen from $73 a share.
It closed yesterday at $12.45 a share on the New York Stock Exchange, down 66 cents, or 5 percent.
And Mr. Pittman's trek to the top of AOL Time Warner was interrupted in May when Richard D. Parsons was named chief executive, replacing the retiring Gerald Levin.
It may have been too much to ask Mr. Pittman to turn around a company that had lost so much value, said Paul Cook, senior portfolio manager at Munder Capital Management.
Though bolstering ad revenue is important, equally critical is finding a way to get AOL's 34 million Internet subscribers to buy broadband service through Time Warner Cable, Mr. Cook said.
"Not only haven't they been successful doing that, they haven't even outlined a clear way to get there," he said.
Mr. Pittman has made some changes at AOL in his short tenure. He bolstered the division's leadership team by hiring James de Castro in April to run the AOL service. He also reduced the number of annoying pop-up ads that appear on the AOL service.
AOL Time Warner's board of directors promoted Home Box Office Chairman Jeff Bewkes, 50, and Time Inc. Chairman Don Logan, 58.
Mr. Bewkes will run an entertainment and networks group including HBO, New Line Cinema, the WB and Turner networks, Warner Bros. and Warner Music.
Mr. Logan will head a media and communications group including America Online, Time Inc., the book group and Time Warner Cable.

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