AOhell: Some people never learn

Steve Case wrote a Washington Post op-ed yesterday that made the lead of the front page of The Times today, pushing for breaking up the merger he made.

Pardon me for being just a little cynical, but the Time Warner stock I got while working there, which I stupidly held onto, was the FU money that F’ed me. And Steve Case is greatly to blame. He is the snakeoil salesman who sold a bill of goods — a company whose strategy he neglected — to the gullible, directionless, frightened fools at Time Warner.

Yet in the Post op-ed, Case is incredibly unselfaware. He paints AOL is the victim in the worst merger in history. And he doesn’t bother taking for engineering that failure.

While most criticism of the merger has focused on how it has failed to yield the expected benefits for Time Warner, it is worth noting that the combination has not helped AOL much either. Some benefits that AOL expected — such as replacing Road Runner, Time Warner’s broadband cable service — did not materialize. Meanwhile, unexpected roadblocks — such as internal pressures slowing AOL’s efforts to make Internet telephone service commercially available — unfortunately did. Instead of propelling AOL to new heights, the association with Time Warner has weighed AOL down, while its competitors, such as Google and Yahoo, have made important strides forward.

Case argues that Time Warner should be split into four parts: cable, publishing, entertainment, online. I actually agree on that score, as I agree with Carl Icahn that a drastic and clean split has to be made. Richard Parsonsis taking the baby steps that have always been characteristic for the company: He hinted at selling AOL, which was only a feint, and then at selling a piece of AOL, also a feint, to try to raise the value of an ad/distribution deal with Google or MSN. He doesn’t do the strategically bold thing. The last strategically bold thing this company did was merge with AOL. Ah-hem. The last strategically bold thing they did before that was merge with Warner Bros. and the only reason that worked was because there was a mogul, Steve Ross, truly in charge of the company. After that, the company was not run on vision. Instead, they thought it would be run on cooperation … in a culture where everyone hates everyone else. They still haven’t figured out how to spell sinergy synergee cynirgy synergy. So without a mogul truly in charge — a Ross or a Murdoch — the only sensible option for Time Warner is to break it up.

And the day that happens, I’ll sell my stock as fast as I can. I’ll be more than happy to sell that AOL stock to Steve Case. That would be justice.