With the promotion, Bewkes will take on the duties of Don Logan, set to soon retire as chairman of Time Warner's media and communications group, which includes the AOL Internet group and Time Warner Cable. Bewkes had been chairman of Time Warner's entertainment and networks group, which includes the HBO and Warner Bros. divisions, since July 2002.
Some view the promotion as a statement to Time Warner dissident shareholder Carl Icahn, telling him that the situation at AOL is under control. "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 Hal Vogel, CEO of Vogel Capital Management.
Icahn publicly disapproved of Google's recent deal with Time Warner to purchase a stake in AOL, warning that it was potentially "disastrous." Icahn charged that other companies--such as Barry Diller's IAC/InterActiveCorp--would be a better fit.
Icahn, in the middle of a campaign to replace most of Time Warner's board, has blasted the company's management at every turn in recent weeks--possibly because Time Warner stock has hovered in the $18-a-share range for the last two years--down from $80 in 2000. 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 quicker business moves.