Can A Nice Guy Run This Thing?

How Gerald Levin picked a savvy diplomat to steer AOL Time Warner through turbulent times

Gerald Levin's carefully laid plans for filling his shoes almost fell apart last May. Richard Parsons, one of Levin's two deputies and the man he wanted to succeed him as CEO of AOL Time Warner, was being avidly recruited to be CEO of food-and-tobacco giant Philip Morris. In a car ride back from a corporate retreat at the Hilton Rye Town, in the New York City suburbs, Levin urged his protege to stay.

He promised to lobby the board of directors to make Parsons CEO of AOL Time Warner. The sweetener: Levin confided that he didn't intend to serve out the...

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