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Time Warner’s Levin expects ABC dispute to be resolved

Time Warner Inc. chairman Gerald Levin dismissed suggestions Thursday that
the company’s spat with Disney over carriage of the ABC network and other
programming was related to Time Warner’s pending merger with America Online
Inc. “This is a commercial dispute that has been going on for some time,
well before the announcement of the AOL-Time Warner merger,” Levin said in
an interview with financial news network CNBC.

Disney, which opposes the merger, has accused Time Warner of wanting to put
off a deal on ABC for eight months in order to complete its combination with
AOL. Levin said Disney and Time Warner were back in contact, and he expected
the issue to be resolved by the July 15 deadline.

The bitter standoff had become an embarrassment for the two media giants,
with each accusing the other of acting in bad faith. Time Warner cable
carried a message saying “Disney has taken ABC away from you.” Disney
called that statement a lie, claiming it had given Time Warner permission to
carry the signal.

“I don’t like what happened — I don’t want to see it happen again,” Levin
said.

Levin made the remarks shortly after the company announced a new management
team for the combined company to take over after closure of the deal, which
is seen as coming in the fall. As expected, Levin will be chief executive
while AOL chairman and CEO Steve Case will be chairman.

Bob Pittman, the AOL president who had previously worked at Time Warner,
will become co-chief operating officer of the combined company along with
Dick Parsons, who is currently president of Time Warner.

Parsons will be in charge of the Warner Bros. movie studio; Warner Music
Group, which recently entered a deal to combine with British music company
EMI; the boutique movie studio New Line Cinema; trade publishing and legal
affairs. CNN founder Ted Turner, who is now vice chairman of Time Warner and
a major shareholder of the company, will keep his title.

Richard Bressler, the former chief financial officer of Time Warner who took
over the company’s online efforts prior to the merger with AOL, will become
an executive vice president of the new company and oversee new investments
for the company.

Ken Novack, currently the vice chairman of AOL, will keep his title in
AOL-Time Warner. As the companies had indicated before, the new entity will
be based in New York and will have an operations centre in Dulles, Va., the
current headquarters for America Online.

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