AOL Names Jonathan Miller CEO

With questions swirling about everything from its accounting practices to its relationship with Time Warner, AOL tapped an outsider to right the ship.

AOL Time Warner announced Monday afternoon the appointment of Jonathan Miller as CEO of the Internet division, where he will replace recently resigned AOL chief Robert Pittman.

The move could bring some stability to AOL, which has been rocked by management turmoil, a depressed advertising market, and questions about accounting gimmicks. Pittman was pressured to resign in July, only three months after he was brought in to steady AOL after Barry Schuler’s departure.

AOL has struggled to find the promised synergies in its merger with Time Warner, buffeted by a depressed online ad climate and slowing revenue growth. It remains the world’s largest Internet service provider, boasting 35 million subscribers, yet subscriber signups have slowed and the company has failed to convert many of its dial-up customers to higher-priced broadband service.

By choosing Miller, AOL Time Warner looked outside what is increasingly looked at as the rival AOL and Time Warner camps. With Pittman’s departure, Time Warner executives have occupied the top positions at the company, with the exception of AOL founder Steve Case, who remains the company’s chairman.

“Jon’s hiring reprsents an important step forward fro America Online and the entire company,” Case said in a statement. “The discussions I’ve had with Jon give me great confidence that he will put the focus squarely back on our members and ensure that we strike the right balance between driving near-term growth and investing for the future.”

The 45-year-old Miller’s resume indicates he will look beyond AOL’s subscriber-centric strategy to find other ways to increase revenues generated from add-on services. Until June, he worked on Barry Diller’s executive team at USA Interactive, serving as chief of the information services unit. At USA, Miller was in charge of the company’s stable of e-commerce properties, including Ticketmaster, Expedia, CitySearch and Match.com.

Miller also has experience at an e-commerce startup, Viacom, the National Basketball Association, and a PBS affiliate in Boston. He helped launch Nickelodeon in the United Kingdom.

“This is a terrific opportunity to build on [AOL’s] industry leadership to better serve both members and partners,” Miller said. “My focus will be on making the AOL service even more useful in the everyday lives of its members.”

Miller will report to Don Logan, a former Time chairman recently appointed to oversee the AOL division and AOL Time Warner’s publishing and cable divisions.

One of Miller’s first tasks will be to simplify AOL’s Byzantine management structure, which has 20 people holding the titles of executive vice president or president. In contrast, the Time division has four.

AOL is the subject of an inquiry by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) into how it booked advertising deals. A recent Washington Post article raised questions about AOL’s accounting of some deals it made in 2000 and 2001. AOL Time Warner disputed the report, saying it stands by the Internet division’s bookkeeping.

The SEC is already probing AOL’s relationship with PurchasePro. Meanwhile, the company’s connection with Homestore.com has also come under the microscope in a California lawsuit against the real-estate portal.

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