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Katie Benner

Lessons From the AOL-Time Warner Disaster

The press largely ignored the 15th anniversary of one of the worst mergers in history, possibly because it's such a downer.
What's the worst that could happen?

What's the worst that could happen?

Photographer: Chris Hondros via Getty Images
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A very special date came and went last weekend: the 15th anniversary of the AOL-Time Warner merger. When the deal was announced, the combined companies boasted a market cap of $350 billion. Now, split once again, AOL is worth $3.6 billion and Time Warner $68.9 billion. The most notable AOL-Time Warner synergy was probably the $99 billion loss it posted in 2003. Surely no one company could manage that on its own. The marriage is considered one of the worst in the annals of business.

As a former Time Warner employee, it seemed apropos to commemorate the date by burning as much money as I could get my hands on, firing all my friends, and axing my Time Warner Cable and magazine subscriptions. Those ideas might sound destructive and unnecessary in hindsight, but I assure you that they sounded great at the time.