It's Miller Time at AOL
from Media Unspun's Deborah Asbrand ... Jon Miller's in charge of AOL Time Warner now, and he's got nothing to say. OK, the new CEO has a little to say, but none of it is interesting. And as the media witness the train wreck of a company's third CEO so far this year, they seem almost relieved at his reticence.
Reporters universally pegged Miller's main qualifications to be his e-commerce and TV experience as former lieutenant to Barry Diller at USA Interactive, and his neutrality. Outlets cast him as an outsider, having come from neither AOL nor Time Warner -- an important distinction at a company where the work atmosphere apparently rivals the camaraderie of a riot. The Wall Street Journal called him affable, and the Washington Post said he fits in with AOL-TW's "make-nice makeover." Miller's modest comment to the New York Times that he suspected the company would choose a "rock star" a la Bob Pittman indicates how far out of whack ego-fed perceptions had gone. Pittman as a rock star? Sounds like both executives and reporters need to get out more. Hey, the Springsteen tour starts tonight.
In the How Quickly Things Change category, Unspun notes that the Times reported Miller was a favorite candidate of AOL chairman Steve Case, and that one reason for the company's choice of Miller was a "face-saving" gesture toward Case, whose influence the Times said was waning. That's a turnaround for Case, to now be viewed as the AOL holdover to be humored, and for the Times, which less than three weeks ago ran a report that said the pressure was on Case to take the lead at AOL-TW.
Miller's chats with the media so far are also neutral to the point of being bland, which of course is the point. The Financial Times scored an interview with the new CEO in which he spoke of "unlocking AOL's value," a wilted-sounding notion harkening back to the dot-com days. "If you do that and maintain the subscriber base," he went on to the peach paper, "you will attract advertising over time."
Among the few who were quoted criticizing Miller's hire was Jeff Christian, chief executive of search firm Christian & Timbers. What AOL really needs, the New York Times quoted Christian as saying, is a turnaround expert. Then again, as the Times noted, it was his firm that brought Carly Fiorina to Hewlett-Packard. From this man we should hear such comments?
Media Veteran Selected To Lead AOL
AOL picks USA's Miller as new chief (Reuters)
Miller's Crossing to AOL
AOL Chooses Outsider to Perform Cyber Rescue
Miller Named AOL's New CEO
An Old-Line Executive for AOL's Online Unit
Miller's Lack of Grand Vision May Be Good (Financial Times)
http://www.tinyurl.com/xyr (Paid subscription required.)
Miller Named CEO for America Online (Wall Street Journal)
Wednesday, August 07, 2002