AOL Time Warner drops 'AOL' from its name; sign of lingering problems from merger

Thursday, September 18th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Acknowledging the failures of the largest merger in U.S. history, the board of AOL Time Warner Inc. voted Thursday to remove ``AOL'' from the company's name.

The largest media and entertainment company in the world will now be called Time Warner Inc., as it was before the merger announced in January 2000 that was billed as a way to jump-start a media revolution by combining ``old'' and ``new'' media companies.

``We believe that our new name better reflects the portfolio of our valuable businesses and ends any confusion between our corporate name and the America Online brand name for our investors, partners and the public,'' chief executive Richard Parsons said in a statement.

The name change will be phased in over the next several weeks, and will affect the company's logos, the way promotes its brands and even its ticker symbol. It is currently ``AOL'' but will revert to ``TWX.''

The change will also affect the name on the company's new headquarters building, a gleaming 80-story structure in Manhattan's Columbus Circle currently known as AOL Time Warner Center. The building is nearly complete and will be opened to its first occupant, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, in the fall. Time Warner plans to move in next spring.

The pioneering Internet company America Online was once seen as a catalyst to breathe new life into the various media properties of Time Warner, including HBO, Time magazine and the nation's No. 2 cable company, Time Warner Cable.

Now, AOL is the company's biggest embarrassment. AOL is still profitable, on track to make nearly $1 billion this year, but it's facing a host of problems, including a regulatory inquiry into its accounting and an eroding subscriber base as users drop AOL for faster connections to the Internet.

With hopes for a media revolution now a distant memory, the company will focus on simplifying its tangled corporate structure, cleaning up its balance sheet, and selling off businesses in order to pay down debt and allow more attention to be paid to its core businesses.

This week the company announced its latest asset sale, a deal to sell two Atlanta teams, the NBA's Hawks and the NHL's Thrashers, to a Boston businessman for $250 million. AOL has also sold off a DVD manufacturing facility and its half-interest in the Comedy Central cable channel.

AOL Time Warner first indicated that it was considering a name change last month.