Chapter 16. JERRY LEVIN
CEO of AOL-Time Warner
Head of Home Box Office (HBO)
Created pay-for-TV-content business model
Back in the 1972, major league pitcher Denny McLain lost 22 games for the Washington Senators. Why would a pitcher be put on the mound enough times to lose that many games? Because two years prior to that he had won 24 games with the Detroit Tigers, and the year before that he won 31 games as the Tigers became World Series champions (no one has won 30 games in a season since).
In other words, you have to do something really well to get the opportunity to do something that goes really badly.
Enter Jerry Levin.
The average person couldn't tell you who Jerry Levin is, especially the slimmed-down and tan version of him in Santa Monica, California, where he and his wife operate a high-end mental health clinic and spa. But on Wall Street you can recognize him because when he walks into a room he's got an 800-pound gorilla attached to him. And the gorilla's name is AOL-Time Warner, as in the failed merger. The business media like to refer to Levin as the "CEO who presided over the worst deal of the century."
But wait a minute. How did he get in a position to put together such a historic combination of old and new media if he was so bad?
Because like a 31-game winner, he had his share of victories in the past.
Here's what the Los Angeles Times wrote about Levin in 1992:
In the mid-1970s, he was widely credited with helping to create the cable television business. It was Levin, as ...