Richard Parsons exits as TW chairman

Jeffrey Bewkes to take over starting Jan. 1

NEW YORK -- Richard Parsons is stepping down as chairman of Time Warner at the end of the year, and the conglomerate's board has elected CEO Jeffrey Bewkes to take on the added role effective Jan. 1.

The move, voted on by the board late Thursday, once again combines the TW chairman and CEO titles in a single executive -- a practice that some corporate governance activists dislike. Bewkes will drop his title of president.

Parsons' departure by year's end has been expected as he has step-by-step removed himself from company business over the past year. He had also previously signaled he most likely will not stay on beyond his current contract. Plus, there's a provision in Bewkes' contract that says he could leave his job if he didn't get named chairman by Jan. 1.

Parsons' next step may be in politics: He has served on president-elect Barack Obama's economic transition team, and there has been talk about a run for mayor of New York. A TW spokesman said Parsons hasn't commented on the issue and wasn't available Thursday.

Bewkes, who took over as CEO at the start of this year, has started to restructure TW's asset portfolio to focus it around content businesses and accelerate its growth and returns. TW Cable is expected to be separated from the rest of the conglomerate in early 2009.

"I'll continue to work closely with the board and our senior management team to execute our company's strategy of providing compelling, branded media content to audiences around the world while delivering superior growth and returns to our stockholders," Bewkes said.

Parsons said the TW board "could have made no better choice." He had pushed Bewkes for the CEO job.

The chairman-designate also said at an investor conference Wednesday that he expects a decision on the future of AOL shortly.

Parsons oversaw the messy aftermath of the AOL-Time Warner merger and brought more stability and calm back to the company.

"I am proud of what we accomplished, and I am very grateful to my colleagues on the board and throughout the company for their steadfast commitment to our stockholders, our customers, the broader public and to me," Parsons said.

Speaking on behalf of the board, lead independent director Frank Caufield said: "Time Warner is going through a strategic transition to become a more streamlined content-focused company to take advantage of growth opportunities afforded by fast-moving technologies and markets worldwide." He added that Bewkes will "provide clear, decisive and unified leadership for our company and board as we execute that strategy."

Robert Clark, chairman of the board's nominating and governance committee, said the board considered the appropriate leadership structure after Parsons' departure. "We are confident that having Jeff Bewkes as our chairman and CEO, coupled with Frank Caufield's continued service as lead independent director and our strong governance policies, provide the right combination of clear leadership and accountability as we move forward."

At TW's annual meeting in May, a majority of shareholders once again voted against a proposal to permanently separate the chairman and CEO roles.
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