Retired Chairman & CEO, Time Warner Communications
Gerald "Jerry" Levin, the grandchild of Holocaust survivors from Eastern Europe, rose to become a shrewd corporate politician whose career highlights included orchestrating three corporate mergers.An early achiever, Levin had learned enough Hebrew before he was 10 to conduct a service at the local synagogue when the cantor failed to show up one Saturday.
After law school, Levin became a corporate. He joined Time in 1972, as vice president of programming for Home Box Office (HBO). He was named president and CEO of HBO in 1973. Levin advised Time to put HBO on a satellite and beam it across the country. HBO became the first national cable network and remains one of the industry's most profitable. Levin's move revolutionized cable network distribution. It also assured HBO's survival and earned Levin the in-house nickname "resident genius."
In 1976 Levin was named chairman of HBO and a vice president of Time and was appointed group vice president for video, overseeing operations at American Television and Communications Corporation as well as HBO, Time-Life Films, and other video interests.
Levin was elected to the Time board in 1988, and it was on Levin's recommendation that the company agreed to merge with Warner Communications in 1989. The title of vice chairman of Time Warner was bestowed upon Levin upon the merger of Time and Warner Brothers in 1990, melding the East Coast Time and the West Coast Warner Communications.
Levin served as COO of Time Warner from 1991 to 1992 and was named president and co-CEO in 1992. In 1996, Levin pushed Time Warner to acquire Turner Broadcasting System.
In January of 2000 the announcement of a merger between AOL and Time Warner made headlines. With the merger Levin--the man who did not wear a tie to the two companies' historic press conference--became "the single most powerful person in media and communications," said Barry Diller, USA Networks' chairman. The merged company surpassed all other communications firms in its reach and vast holdings. America Online brought its flagship online service, Netscape, and several interactive services to the merger. Those operations were combined with traditional media outlets spanning film and TV, music, cable, publishing, and professional sports and included such brands as Warner Brothers, Time Warner Cable, and Warner Music.
In December 2001 Levin announced his retirement.