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At Time Warner, Time for Change

Challenges lie ahead for Jeff Bewkes, new CEO of the stagnating media behemoth. May we suggest bringing New Line Cinema into the fold?

No one knows better than a media executive that first acts have to wow the audience. And for Jeff Bewkes, the freshly minted Time Warner (TWX) chief executive officer, it's darn near show time. His media empire is in need of a drastic overhaul, and Wall Street can be a very demanding audience. The expectation is that Bewkes, who began his 29-year career as a financial wonk at HBO, will make major changes at the $44 billion behemoth.

Bewkes has told analysts he'll likely spin off more of the company's capital-hungry cable system than the 16% already jettisoned by his predecessor Dick Parsons. And Microsoft's Feb. 1 offer to buy Yahoo! (YHOO) (BusinessWeek.com, 2/1/08) has suddenly moved AOL, the Mother of All Corporate Mistakes, to the top of his to-do list. Before the deal, Bewkes was considering spinning off AOL. Now he may have to find a partner to help it fend off Microsoft (MSFT). Bear Stearns (BSC) analyst Spencer Wang writes in a research note that he's counting on Bewkes to "aggressively" restructure some businesses to boost the company's languishing stock. And Wang is not alone.