Turner quits as AOL posts US$99bn loss


30 Jan 2003

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Ted Turner, vice-chairman of internet and publishing behemoth AOL Time Warner, has announced that he will step down from his post in May.

The news came shortly after the company reported a net loss of US$98.7bn in 2002. The figures included a US$45.5bn fourth-quarter write-down connected with the slide in value of its America Online (AOL) subsidiary as well as a US$54bn first-quarter charge stemming from a change in the accounting methods applied by the company.

These massive one-off charges aside, the results offered some rays of hope to the company’s executive team and shareholders. Revenue grew by 8pc in the fourth quarter to US$11.4bn compared with Q4 2001, and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBIDTA) for the quarter, increased 16pc to US$2.8bn. All the company’s divisions reported strong earnings growth, except AOL, where EBIDTA declined, giving further ammunition to disgruntled shareholders unhappy with the dire performance of the merged company since its formation in 2000.

Turner’s resignation comes close on the heels of an announcement by Steve Case that he is to step down as chairman of AOL Time Warner at the company’s AGM in May. Case, the former head of AOL who masterminded the merger, has become the focus of growing investor discontent in recent months. Although he has vowed to stay on as a director of the company and head of its strategy committee, a cabal of influential investors is understood to be planning to oust him from the company altogether.

Turner’s resignation statement issued yesterday was tinged with frustration at the events which led to his decision. “After much reflection,” he said, “I have decided to resign from my executive duties as vice-chairman of AOL Time Warner. I have not come to this decision lightly. As you know this company has been a significant part of my life for over 50 years.”

With Turner and Case departing the scene, the spotlight will fall squarely on CEO Richard Parsons, who is to assume the newly created CEO-cum-chairman role in May.

By Brian Skelly