AOL Time Warner

By Mary Barth, Hilary Stockton
2001 | Case No. A171
AOL investor Fred Grant was surprised and disappointed by the January 10, 2000 announcement of the AOL Time Warner merger. He had been fortunate enough to buy AOL at $40 in October 1999, just prior to the stock’s rapid rise to $95 in mid-December. Although just days prior to the merger announcement the stock had settled to $73, by February 2, 2000, it had suffered another decline — to $57 per share. Although many observers spoke in glowing terms of the enormous synergies between Time Warner’s premier content, advertising, and cable distribution channels and AOL’s Internet brand, marketing savvy, and subscriber base, analysts predicted that growth for the merged company would be in the 15-20% range, one-half of what Grant had been expecting for his AOL holdings. Analysts also warned of the management and execution risks associated with the enormous and unprecedented combination of Internet and traditional media businesses. Finally, Grant was concerned about the implications of AOL Time Warner’s use of the purchase rather than pooling method to account for the deal. Why wouldn’t the company use pooling accounting, as had other companies for large stock deals such as NationsBank-BankAmerica and Travelers-Citicorp? Would goodwill’s dampening effect on earnings hurt the market valuation of the new company? As Grant watched his AOL stock slide in the days following the merger announcement, he wondered whether he should sell his shares, or, as some analysts suggested, use these new lows as a buying opportunity.
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