Bewkes Becomes Time Warner's No. 2, Logan Retires

Just as NBC Universal did a few days ago, Time Warner has promoted a senior executive to a clear No. 2 position to the chief executive. Jeff Bewkes, who has been named president and chief operating officer of Time Warner, looks to be a likely successor to Time Warner Chief Executive Dick Parsons.

Bewkes had been chairman of Time Warner's entertainment and networks group, which since July 2002 has included the HBO and Warner Bros. divisions.

"None of this came as a surprise," said Hal Vogel, CEO of Vogel Capital Management. "It was supposed to happen next year."

This came about because Don Logan, who shared the management of Time Warner's operations with Bewkes, had planned to retire. Logan is currently chairman of Time Warner's media and communications group, which includes the AOL Internet group and Time Warner Cable. He will become Time Warner Cable's non-executive chairman.

Now Bewkes will be swimming with the sharks for sure, say analysts. He'll take on Logan's AOL responsibilities--the hotly contested division in which Google just announced plans to invest some $1 million as a minority investor.

Dissident shareholder Carl Icahn has complained about the Google deal with AOL, believing that Barry Diller's company, IAC/InterActiveCorp--parent of Home Shopping Network, Ticketmaster, Match.com, and Citysearch--would be a better fit. He has blasted the company's every move in the last several months, and has waged a campaign to replace most of Time Warner's board.

"Dick Parsons wanted to send a message to Icahn that the company has a succession plan and that it knows how to run the business," said Vogel.

Icahn has increased pressure on the company in recent weeks. That could be because Time Warner has been stuck in the $18-a-share range for some time, while the overall Dow Jones Industrial market index has climbed some 300 points.

In addition to Icahn's large equity stake in the company, analysts believe that he could also be holding a sizable Time Warner option portfolio that will expire--thus the need to push Time Warner to make big and more rapid business moves.

Last week, NBC promoted Jeff Zucker to chief executive of the NBC Universal Television Group--a move that positions him as a likely successor to Bob Wright, chairman of NBC Universal, as well as vice chairman of NBC's parent,General Electric.