NEW YORK Time Warner made the unwinding of the much-maligned AOL merger official on Thursday, saying its board has authorized a separation of AOL into an independent, publicly traded company.
The entertainment giant made the announcement just ahead of its annual shareholder meeting.
The separation, to which TW has taken several smaller steps since hiring former Google top executive Tim Armstrong as chairman and CEO of AOL earlier this year, will likely be completed around the end of the year.
“A separation will be the best outcome for both Time Warner and AOL,” said TW chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes, who had long argued that the promised synergies of the AOL-TW combination never materialized. “The separation will be another critical step in the reshaping of Time Warner that we started at the beginning of last year, enabling us to focus to an even greater degree on our core content businesses.”
He added that a separation will give both firms greater operational and strategic flexibility, and “AOL will then have a better opportunity to achieve its full potential as a leading independent Internet company.”
Armstrong said: “Becoming a standalone public company positions AOL to strengthen its core businesses, deliver new and innovative products and services, and enhance our strategic options.”
TW had previously discussed a possible AOL merger or other deals with the likes of Microsoft and Yahoo.
TW currently owns 95 percentof AOL, with Google holding the remaining 5 percent. As part of the AOL separation, TW said it expects to buy out Google’s 5 percent stake in AOL in the third quarter before spinning out the Web unit to its shareholders.
The transaction will be tax-free to stockholders.