We should have seen it coming.
The closest person AOL has to a founder still on staff, Ted Leonsis, announced a few months ago he was stepping out of active management next Jan. Anyone want to bet that's about the time the wheels were set in motion to make a switch? That's also when the company's stock began a 17% rise.
Back in the summer, AOL's (TWX) most visible executive, Jason Calacanis, also started getting involved with podcasts. He wangled invitations to Leo Laporte's TWIT, became a regular on Steve Gilmor's "Gang," and finally launched his own show through John Furrier's Podtech.net. More than a year ago, Calacanis said podcasts would never amount to anything. Times change.
I'm predicting Calacanis is going to make a change, too. On those podcasts, he's sounded like a guy with a lot of energy, ideas, patience, and passion - not to mention money - who knows there's another startup in his future. This could be the tipping point.
On his blog, Calacanis calls the announcement of Falco’s hiring, "a very sad day." He lauds Miller as "a quiet (unselfish) samurai of a leader" who put up with Calacanis' antics, knowing the genius effort easily paid for the broken china.
Come the New Year, Leonsis is outta there. Miller probably gone by then. Calacanis will be, too. He’s said that if he didn’t finish 2006 as a top company executive, it would be time to move on. He won't. There will be new guys getting new AOL business cards. Falco has people he wants to work with. So does Calacanis. They both will. Just not together. Different worlds.
The arrival of a 30-year NBC veteran to run AOL is not likely to excite the staying-behind cubicle workers. But for shareholders like me, (holding since the mid 1990's), that's probably good. The cost cutting and layoffs, revolutionizing the business model -- the heavy lifting's been done.
It might even be “business as usual.” Which would be a change.
Disclaimer: I own shares of Time Warner.