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Related story: Quiet, graceful exit for TW’s Parsons
NEW YORK — My first ever interaction with Time Warner’s Dick Parsons in early 2001 introduced me to the management and social style that will be remembered as his trademark — approachable, easygoing, warm and fun-loving.
I was a reporter for a financial newswire back then, had just started to focus on media and entertainment business coverage but was then covering any kind of financial news I could find at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos for a week.
Most U.S. journalists on the scene were on the Fed and financial services beats, so Parsons wasn’t quite on their radar. And the European journalists didn’t quite recognize all the media and entertainment bigwigs in attendance either.
No wonder then that Parsons nearly slipped past me as he attracted little attention even though he was on his way to a cocktail reception with none other than Quincy Jones.
When I approached them and asked for a quick chat with the man who had just been designated to become co-COO of the just-announced AOL Time Warner once it would get regulatory approval, Parsons gave me a bemused and amused smile and asked if I was sure I didn’t want an autograph from the man he referred very warmly as just Quincy.
Jones said he’d be happy to oblige me, but I replied I was on work duty and couldn’t chase anyone other than a high-level industry exec.
I seem to remember that Parsons patted me on the back, smiled again and agreed to a few minutes of work chat, while adding that he wasn’t as important as I made it sound. And with a nod to Jones, he added that I should in the future take time to focus on the real stars of entertainment.
But Parsons did oblige me, and we discussed possible layoffs at the combined AOL TW, growth projections and the like. I remember Parsons repeatedly downplaying the importance of some of the big numbers that the engineers of the AOL TW merger had promised. And he made a point out of saying that he knows a lot of the people who could be affected by layoffs, and he’d rather not talk too much about such unpleasant issues beind their backs.
After a while, he excused himself, pointing out he wanted to spend time with his friend Quincy and meet some other people.
Later that night, the cocktail reception had turned into a full-blown party as the music turned louder and people had a good time.
I saw Parsons talking to many people and laughing a lot with them. And when people started considering getting down on the dance floor, Parsons was one of the first to dance and soak up the fun.
Many believe Parsons may soon be socializing on the political dance floor. But no one doubts that he will be able to use his social skills in that realm, just as well as in the entertainment field.
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