Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Can AOL's 150-Man Football Team Be Managed

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Can AOL's 150-Man Football Team Be Managed

Article excerpt

NEW YORK -- It wasn't as shocking as it would be for a local community college to take over Harvard, but the AOL-TimeWarner deal was to the business community just as unexpected and implausible.

Here was a new company in a new business without any pedigree and no print publishing experience taking over one of the world's most distinguished, market-entrenched print publishers. After the shock, the questions came: Does the public really want its news, entertainment and communications from one supplier? Will the deal pass antitrust scrutiny? Can two cultures be joined? And, of course, can it be profitable -- not just profitable in terms of bottom-line profits, but profitable also for investors?

It was, remember, investors who pumped up America Online's market value and made the deal feasible -- made the otherwise impossible deal possible -- allowing AOL in effect to use legal tender of its own mintage.

Now, investors feared, AOL's new-age shares, which had helped make many of them millionaires, would be slowed. It was an unsettling thought for people used to seeing their wealth compound.

As prices of both Time Warner and AOL stock declined in the days after the deal was announced, the situation provoked even more questions, among the foremost being: How in the world could such a multifaceted behemoth be managed effectively?

What has been created isn't your ordinary management situation. This merger involves different cultures and scores of fiefdoms headed by strong egos with entrepreneurial goals of their own.

Entrepreneurship created AOL; can it be encouraged in a new and unfamiliar environment? How will it grow and keep the competition at bay and the shareholders happy? To do so, suggest critics, is equivalent to assembling a 150-man football team, coaching all the diverse talent to pull in the same direction, taking it to the Super Bowl and winning. …

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