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There Must Be a Pony in Here Somewhere: The AOL Time Warner Debacle and the Quest for a Digital Future Hardcover – October 14, 2003

4.0 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Business; 1 edition (October 14, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400049636
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400049639
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #242,639 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Much of Kara Swisher's lively chronicle of the biggest media merger in history is focused on two visionary company leaders: AOL's Steve Case, who made the company into the 800-pound gorilla of cyberspace but could never seem to turn that power into genuine respect; and Time Warner's Gerald Levin, whose efforts to take the venerable media company into a Net-based future met with one failure after another (FSN, Pathfinder). In theory, the merger should have given both partners what they wanted. So what went wrong? Swisher counts the ways, from bad timing (the tech boom of the late 90's was already starting to wane when the merger was first announced) to tumultuous ego clashes between the "young turks" of AOL and the feudalistic "old school" hierarchy of Time Warner. And then, of course, there's the money. Swisher details AOL's "creative" accounting practices, Time Warner's less-than-diligent due diligence (possibly a product of Levin's determination to make the merger happen, no matter what), and the desire on both sides to create a "synergy" of old and new media, with no clear idea on how to make it happen. Synergy was AOL-Time Warner's Holy Grail, all-important but ever-elusive, and when the company failed to get it, the stock price tumbled. Swisher's prose style is accessible and informative. When she offers personal anecdotes or opinions, they are never intrusive or self-important; instead, they add dimension and context to the narrative, fleshing out the how-high-can-we-go? headiness of the late 1990's. My only complaints are minor ones.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I would get this book prior to any trip...it is well-written with an irreverent, breezy style and an eye to the clever phrase or interesting anecdote. It is fun to read. The author, Kara Swisher, not only chronicles the AOL-Time Warner transaction but also provides interesting perspective on the late 90's and early 00's. One could ask why my comments and why this particular book? The book has value in that the author lived through this period, understood the genesis of the acquiring company, AOL, and importantly, was a keen observer of Time Warner (including its key players, Jerry Levin and Ted Turner among others) and the transaction that took place. To give you a sense of her style and perspective, she describes the merger as " a company without any assets acquiring a company without a clue."
What makes the book worthwhile is the author, her style and most importantly, the relationships she established with almost all of the main players. She had extraordinary access to them over time and they were comfortable enough with her to provide their own perspectives in something other than a self serving manner. There are no heroes only fools, some more gullible than others.
Buy it, you'll enjoy it and you will remember to look for Kara Swisher's by-line when you next read the Wall Street Journal.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a very good book on the AOL Time Warner merger. This merger is unusual, because it is the acquirer (AOL) that got weakened much more than the acquired (Time Warner). Also interesting, it is not so obvious why that was the case. Right after the merger, the AOL executives got the upper hand over the Time Warner ones. This was logical, and was a confirmation of who bought up whom. So, given that the AOL executives had the upper hand, and that AOL was doing great before the merger, what triggered the demise of the company post merger?
The author makes a well detailed and successful case that the unraveling of AOL was associated with the bitterness of the Time Warner executives as the result of not being treated as equals. As a result, they conducted a quiet mutiny by consciously underperforming on all the projects and ventures related to AOL. And, they succeeded marvelously.
The author also makes a case that AOL is not over. And, that it has still a bright future within the internet and technology domain. Here the author is on much thinner ice. Her case is more about subjectivity and personal likings than anything else.
Nevertheless, this book is overall an excellent and easy read. The author style is very lively and makes for a fast page turner. It is also very personal. She seems to know and meet everyone in the industry and have interesting personal opinions on them all. This renders the book so much more interesting then just an extended Harvard case study which so many books of this type end up becoming.
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Format: Hardcover
This book chronicles the saga of the much maligned merger between AOL and Time Warner. A deal that exemplifies the era of dot.com speculations, shady accounting, and wealth created by the absurd free-for-all that was the mid to late `90's. When the bottom dropped out of the dot.com boom the merger left few standing and the biggest single financial loss in corporate history.

The book looks at the storied and unlikely emergence of AOL, through an often dizzying and phoenix-like rising from the ashes of one failed concept after another. Throughout, the narcissistic antics of the leaders of the company are legendary. David Colburn, the famed deal maker at AOL, used particularly colorful language in his wholesale assault on those he sought to best (Page 46), never content to merely close a deal but demoralize people in the process. He is but one of the many examples.

Time Warner head Jerry Levin, who took most of the blame for the disastrous merger, was himself a study in what happens when leaders insulate themselves from feedback. The sections on Levin are perhaps the most interesting. Devastated by the murder of his son, and the events of 9-11, Levin occasionally demonstrated "jerry mcguire-esqe" moments of humanity, including a plea for the organization to dedicate itself to serving the public good. (Page 207) A plea that was met by outright hostility as it was timed with the release of the admission that the new AOL-Time-Warner would miss all of its projected financials. Steve Case, himself a unique individual, is profiled as an enigma. Both eventually take the fall for the financial debacle.
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