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Once again, it's time for change at

AOL Time Warner



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The embattled New York media company, long stung by the weak performance of its America Online arm, may soon drop AOL from its corporate name, according to reports published Monday. Those articles indicated that the company could move in the next month to change its name back to Time Warner, in honor of the big cable and publishing conglomerate that was swallowed up by America Online in a January 2001 merger.

The speculation comes even as AOL Time Warner has begun to win back fans on a skeptical Wall Street, following a management shuffle that put the leaders of the former Time Warner at the helm of the company.

Back in the days of the Internet bubble, of course, the AOL-Time Warner merger was seen as illustrating the rising fortunes of online media properties vis-a-vis conventional publishers. But since then America Online has been beset by eroding financial results and a host of accounting and business-practices inquiries. Those worries have pushed the combined company's stock down more than 60% since the deal was completed. On Monday, AOL Time Warner rose 20 cents to $15.43.

In the meantime, most of the top executives at AOL and powers behind the merger have been pushed out, in favor of longtime Time Warner hands. Dealmakers Steve Case, Jerry Levin and Bob Pittman have given way at the top of AOL Time Warner to CEO Dick Parsons. Parsons has delegated much authority to division heads such as Don Logan and Jeff Bewkes.

The AOL division has come to look like such an albatross to some eyes that rumors have been floating about imminent efforts to spin off or sell America Online. A name change would likely do little to reduce questions on that front.