Jeff Bewkes Named Time Warner CEO

Parsons to Give Up CEO Role Jan. 1, Remain as Chairman

Time Warner’s board of directors elected Jeff Bewkes as the company’s new CEO effective Jan. 1.

The company made it official Monday afternoon that current CEO Dick Parsons will step down at the end of the year and hand the reins over to president and chief operating officer Bewkes. The announcement confirmed speculation that has grown in intensity ahead of the company’s earnings report scheduled for Wednesday. Parsons will remain the company’s chairman.

“Jeff is the right person to be the next CEO of Time Warner, and I couldn’t be more delighted that he will lead this company into the future,” Parsons said in a statement. “We have had a terrific working partnership, and I am proud of what we accomplished together. As he leads Time Warner, Jeff will have my full support, and I am confident that Jeff will deliver a new era of growth for all of our company’s important stakeholders.”

Parsons became CEO in 2002 and chairman in 2003, guiding the company out of the financial malaise that gripped it in the wake of the AOL merger. But the company has been the target of investor angst in recent years as its stock price has failed to gain any momentum. Calls for a change at the top intensified as Bewkes, perceived as more progressive, entered the picture as the heir apparent to Parsons. Outspoken investors have called for a restructuring of Time Warner assets, translating into a possible spinoff of the AOL business.

Bewkes has served as the company’s president and chief operating officer since 2006 and has long been considered the heir apparent to Parsons’ position.

“We have a lot to do, and I’m intensely focused on building shareholder value,” Bewkes said in a statement. “Dick accomplished much to restore Time Warner’s stature as the world’s leading media and entertainment company, and he put into place the foundation and flexibility for our future growth.”

Time Warner stock jumped Monday morning on CNBC’s report that Parsons would announce that he was stepping down as CEO. The move has been rumored for months with speculation heating up ahead of Wednesday’s earnings report.

Investors have speculated on what the change at the top of Time Warner might mean for the company, with a structuring and spinoff of assets such as Time Warner Cable and AOL.

In September, Parsons refuted talk that a split-up of the company was in the works. He said the company was focused on an operational transition at AOL, although he was less adamant about the prospects of a spinoff of the cable business.

Time Warner stock jumped about 3% on the news in a session otherwise characterized by downward pressure on stocks. Through midday, the stock was up $0.43, or 2.4%, to $18.31 per share.