Richard Parsons talks about TW exit

'This is my last shot,' chairman says

NEW YORK -- Richard Parsons pretty much confirmed Friday that he will likely step down as chairman of Time Warner in the next year and possibly by year's end, which could lead to CEO Jeffrey Bewkes taking on the added chairman role.

"This is my last shot at this," Parsons said at the conglomerate's annual shareholder meeting at the CNN Center in Atlanta. "I'll be the outgoing chairman after this," he said, even though in an afterthought he added the word "probably."

Parsons has widely been expected to serve as chairman until the end of this year.

Bewkes, who made his first annual meeting appearance as CEO on Friday, could add the chairman post once Parsons leaves, especially as the meeting once again voted against a shareholder proposal to permanently separate the chairman and CEO roles.

A provision in Bewkes' contract says he can leave his job if he doesn't also get named chairman by Jan. 1, 2009.

Meanwhile, Barry Meyer, chairman and CEO of Warner Bros. Entertainment, told shareholders that an actors strike would be "very detrimental" to the entertainment industry. However, he expressed hope that a new labor deal would be struck by the end of June or shortly thereafter.

Bewkes and Parsons on Friday told investors that TW is on the right track.

Bewkes lauded the "very strong" 2007 performance in key businesses, making for the fifth consecutive year of management hitting its financial targets.

Bewkes also highlighted that Warner Bros. in 2007 had "our best year at the boxoffice ever," calling the operation "the best movie studio in the world."

He said TW continues to work on a separation of TWC and is "very close" to reaching such a deal. Asked if TW's networks may suffer in carriage talks after a TWC, he shrugged off any concerns. "The power of these networks is not so established and universal," Bewkes argued.

The CEO declined comment on any current or past talks between AOL and Yahoo over a possible deal. But he said AOL is doing well enough on its own that it doesn't have to be desperate for a deal. However, he then signaled that various online firms have approached AOL for various talks.

"It may be that some of those companies" are looking to put together a better competitor to Google, Bewkes added.

Parsons thanked the TW board for helping him through his and the conglomerate's "darkest hours" and lauded the continuing turnaround now overseen by Bewkes. "Your company is actually in very good shape," Parsons said. "The prospects for our future are very bright."
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