NEW YORK -- Ted Turner isn't expected to renew his employment contract with AOL Time Warner Inc. when it expires at the end of this year, Friday's Wall Street Journal reported.
Some suggest that could free Mr. Turner -- a major shareholder with the title of vice chairman -- to become more of a critic of the media giant.
AOL Time Warner (AOL) hasn't yet offered Mr. Turner a new contract and he hasn't asked for one, people familiar with the situation say. One person said Mr. Turner's future role is still being discussed. While it is still possible he could renew his contract, such negotiations usually occur well in advance of their expiration.
Mr. Turner became an executive and a big shareholder of Time Warner after the media company bought Turner Broadcasting System in 1996. But his relations with top executives, including Chief Executive Gerald Levin, cooled after his role at the company was severely limited in a management restructuring that occurred when America Online Inc. and Time Warner merged in what was then a $156.14 billion merger at the start of the year.
As part of the merger, Mr. Turner retained his title of vice chairman and became a "senior adviser," but he lost responsibility for the cable networks.
A person close to him said recently he was upset by the way in which he was pushed aside, adding that he would likely resign by year's end. A spokesman for Mr. Turner said he wasn't available for comment. An AOL Time Warner spokesman declined to comment.
Even if his contract ends, Mr. Turner is likely to stay on AOL's board. He remains a big individual shareholder, with 3.8% of AOL stock, according to AOL's most recent proxy statement. Remaining on the board ensures Mr. Turner, who can be outspoken at times, has access to information and could become a thorn in the side of senior management. One Turner Broadcasting executive recently said Mr. Turner was looking forward to the freedom he would have to be a critical board member, when no longer an employee.
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