The 2000 merger between America Online (AOL) and Time-Warner - itself the product of the merger between the Time-Life publishing group and the Warner music, film, publishing and theme parks conglomerate - was praised by some analysts as an ideal marriage of content with carriage.
During the same year the group's recording and music publishing arm was sold for US$2.6 billion to a consortium led by Edgar Bronfman (former head of Universal), becoming Warner Music.
''Fools Rush In,'' by Nina Munk, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, is the best so far. Marrying exemplary reporting with lively, lucid writing, she makes a convincing and devastating at the same time case that Levin wrecked the legacy of Henry Luce, the founder of Time Inc., in the service of his ego. Levin wanted to redeem his weak performance at the company's helm with what he liked to call a transforming transaction. He had already transformed Time once, in 1990, when he helped engineer its merger with Warner Communications. That was another lousy deal. What he transformed in the AOL merger was $200 billion of his shareholders' money into nothing.
Munk's entry to the growing list of books about the AOL Time Warner merger provides a thorough recap of the catastrophe, with the author coming to her own conclusion on the causes behind the merger's failure. After more than 100 pages of the obligatory background on AOL and its chairman, Steve Case, and Time Warner and chairman Jerry Levin, Munk begins to make her argument that Case and Levin, who ran their companies with few checks and balances, bear the greatest responsibility for orchestrating a deal that had little chance to succeed. ...