Time Warner execs win out in PR shake-up

NEW YORK - AOL Time Warner has reshuffled its PR pack, leaving it looking remarkably similar to the communications team of the pre-merger Time Warner.

NEW YORK - AOL Time Warner has reshuffled its PR pack, leaving it looking remarkably similar to the communications team of the pre-merger Time Warner.

Since Richard Parsons took over as CEO in mid-May, the company has changed its corporate communications agency of record from Robinson, Lerer & Montgomery (RL&M) to Kekst & Company. In addition, Time Warner PR veteran Ed Adler has ascended to the top of the comms hierarchy, replacing AOL's Ken Lerer.

Lerer has assumed a new role as a strategic adviser to Parsons, but is no longer involved in the media company's day-to-day PR efforts.

Kekst was Time Warner's agency at the time of the merger, while AOL has historically worked with RL&M. Neither Kekst nor RL&M would comment on the status of the AOL Time Warner account.

Lerer, who did not return PRWeek's calls, is no longer associated with RL&M, according to firm partner Walter Montgomery, even though the firm continues to bear his name. Early in his tenure with AOL, Lerer was functioning as both president of RL&M and as head of communications for AOL.

Another Time Warner veteran, VP John Martin, heads the media giant's IR effort and reports to CFO Wayne Pace. Lerer also oversaw IR until recently.

John Buckley has been tapped to head communications at the AOL division in Dulles, VA, replacing Lerer lieutenant Ann Brackbrill, who now assists Lerer in his role as adviser to the CEO. Buckley had been in the corporate communications department at AOL Time Warner before his appointment.

The communications makeover comes after the company's failure to deliver on bullish post-merger growth forecasts has slammed its stock price and damaged its credibility on Wall Street.

Although RL&M continues to work with the AOL division of the merged company, the strategic communications boutique seems to have been a casualty of Kekst's strong ties to Time Warner's old guard, including both Parsons and Adler.

Subsequent to his departure as head of communications, Lerer was given a public vote of confidence by Parsons, who told staff that by making Lerer a full-time adviser he was merely "formalizing" a role that Lerer had been doing informally.

At the time, Parsons explained that he continued to rely on Lerer's "good judgment and counsel."

In recent years, Lerer became a member of AOL's inner circle as a trusted adviser to AOL president Bob Pittman. Lerer eventually elected to leave RL&M to join AOL on a full-time basis. Pittman, who eventually became COO of AOL Time Warner, left the media company in July after he had become a lighting rod for criticism about the broken promises surrounding the media merger.

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