Time Warner Co-CEO Nicholas Quits
NEW YORK (AP) _ Time Warner Inc. on Thursday announced the unexpected resignation of N.J. Nicholas Jr. as co-chief executive and president in a rift over the direction of the media and entertainment giant.
Vice chairman Gerald M. Levin, a former Nicholas rival and one of the architects of the merger of Time Inc. and Warner Communications Inc., was elected by the company’s board of director to succeed Nicholas.
Nicholas has been sharing the chief executive’s title with Chairman Steven J. Ross since a few months after the 1990 merger. Levin, a lawyer, has been the merged company’s chief business strategist.
Nicholas, who also stepped down from the company’s board, was quoted in a news release from Time Warner as saying his decision was prompted by unspecified differences between himself and the management and board.
The deal that brought Time and Warner together created one of the world’s biggest media and entertainment companies with interests in magazine and book publishing, filmed entertainment, recorded music and cable television.
Nicholas’ abrupt departure was a surprise because he was the highest- ranking executive from Time in the merged company. When the merger was announced, the plan was to make Nicholas sole chief executive in 1994 while Ross, who had led Warner Communications, would remain as chairman for another five years beyond that.
Ross, 64, is currently undergoing treatment for prostate cancer.
Time Warner’s financial fortunes have been improving.
It has trimmed its debt in recent months to $8.7 billion from about $11 billion. It has agreed to sell a 12 1/2 percent stake in its entertainment operations to two Japanese companies for $1 billion. It also recently posted its first quarterly profit since the merger.
Levin, 52, joined Time in 1972 at its Home Box Office pay-television division and became vice chairman in July 1989 when Time bought a majority interest in Warner. The merger of the companies was completed in January 1990.
In the statement released by the company, Nicholas hinted at a top-level disagreement.
″For a company to fulfill its potential requires a clear strategic focus shared totally by its leadership,″ he was quoted as saying in the statement released after the close the financial markets in New York.