Gerald M. Levin, Time Warner Chief in a Merger Debacle, Dies at 84

Gerald M. Levin, a “visionary” media executive, as he was often described, who became C.E.O. of the world’s largest media company, Time Warner, and an architect of its merger with America Online, widely considered the worst corporate marriage in American history, died on Wednesday. He was 84.

Jake Maia Arlow, a grandchild of Mr. Levin’s, confirmed the death, in a hospital, and said he lived in Long Beach, Calif. No other details were provided. Mr. Levin had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

Mr. Levin was Time Warner’s chief executive when he and his counterpart at AOL at the time, Steve Case, devised what was then the largest business merger in U.S. history. When the deal was announced on Jan. 10, 2000, Time Warner was the world’s largest media company, and America Online was the largest internet company, with a combined market value of roughly $342 billion (the equivalent of about $600 billion today).

The merger, creating AOL Time Warner, was heralded as a watershed moment — the union of old and new media, a storied 20th-century American company whose origins could be traced to the publishing baron Henry Luce and the Hollywood boss Jack Warner, hitching up with a Virginia tech company for a ride into the World Wide Web. Instead, it became shorthand for the excesses of the turn-of-the-century dot-com bubble and the era of so-called synergy.

Richard Parsons, who succeeded Mr. Levin as chief executive of AOL Time Warner in 2002, said in a phone interview for this obituary in 2022 that Mr. Levin was “one of the smartest guys in the media and entertainment space,” a “visionary” who saw the digital wave coming and understood how the internet would transform Time Warner’s business.

“He saw the merger with AOL as making Time Warner digital by injection,” Mr. Parsons said. “What AOL brought to the party was instant access and competence in terms of how to access the internet world.”

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