Time Warner taps NBC’s Falco to lead AOL

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Time Warner has appointed Randy Falco, the number-two executive at NBC Universal’s television group, as chief executive and chairman of its AOL internet division as it aims to transform the group into an advertising-driven business.

Attracting Mr Falco, one of NBC’s most seasoned executives, will be seen as a milestone in efforts to transform AOL from a declining internet connection business. “This move could allay concerns that AOL has had difficulty attracting key talent and is an indication that AOL’s improved prospects are getting more attention in the internet marketplace,” said Aryeh Bourkoff, analyst at UBS.

Mr Falco will replace Jonathan Miller, the AOL chairman and chief executive, who has presided over massive job cuts in recent months as AOL has begun to shutter its business of offering dial-up internet connections.

In a statement last night, Dick Parsons, Time Warner’s chief executive, thanked Mr Miller for his service, and said: “A key to Time Warner’s digital future, AOL is showing early success in transitioning to an advertising-focused business model, and Randy is a first-rate choice to ensure AOL realises its promise.”

NBC Universal declined to comment on the move, first reported in the New York Times on Wednesday.

Mr Falco, 52, has been at NBC, the media business owned by General Electric, for 30 years. He has headed the network’s advertising sales group, managed its relations with affiliate stations and oversaw Telemundo, its Spanish-language network.

However, he lost out to Jeff Zucker in December when NBC unveiled a restructuring of its television group. Mr Zucker was made chief executive of an enlarged NBC Universal Television Group, while Mr Falco became president and chief operating officer.

Internally, the move formalised Mr Zucker’s standing as heir apparent to Bob Wright, NBC’s chief executive, who at 63 is two years away from GE’s customary retirement age.

NBC last month announced plans to make 700 job cuts. Some people at the network believe it might opt to restructure its executive team again following Mr Falco’s departure rather than seek a direct replacement.

The appointment by Mr Falco to AOL will give the group more clout in the battle for market share in online advertising, the fastest-growing advertising category.

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