Jeffrey L. Bewkes ’74, a member of the Yale Corporation, was named chief executive officer of Time Warner Inc., the company announced Monday.
Bewkes, 55, will take the helm of the world’s largest media conglomerate Jan. 1. Currently the president and chief operating officer of Time Warner, Bewkes was named to the Corporation last year. He formerly served as the longtime head of the movie channel HBO.
Bewkes’ colleagues in the Corporation praised him Tuesday as a poised, down-to-earth leader who is perfect to guide Time Warner, a company that has struggled to redeem itself in the eyes of investors after its disastrous merger with AOL in 2000.
“We’re all very excited for him,” University President Richard Levin said. “He’s a very creative, thoughtful leader, and I think he’ll do a fabulous job there.”
Bewkes’ appointment did not come as a surprise. He had been groomed for several years as the likely successor to Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons, and he had Parsons’ backing.
In the 19-member Corporation, Bewkes joins several other chief executives of publicly traded companies. Indra Nooyi SOM ’80 is president and CEO of PepsiCo, and Will Miller ’78 is chairman and CEO of the Indiana-based Irwin Financial Corporation.
Even with all the demands of running a large company, Corporation members like Nooyi and Bewkes make time for Yale because of their love for the University, Levin said.
Corporation member Donna Dubinsky ’77, the co-founder of technology start-up Numenta, Inc., also knows the stresses of a high-powered CEO job. She was the head of Palm Computing during the heyday of the PalmPilot.
“I do think it is hard for someone in Jeff or Indra’s position to be able to make time and do a good job on the Yale Corporation, but it’s a matter of priorities,” Dubinsky told the News on Tuesday. “Thankfully for us at Yale, they have both chosen to make Yale one of their priorities.”
Dubinsky said she thinks Bewkes is the right man for the Time Warner job.
“I think he’s uniquely qualified for it given his fine history for the company,” she said.
Bewkes joined HBO in 1979 as a marketing manager and gradually worked his way up the ranks. He became the network’s chief financial officer in the 1980s and then became president and chief operating officer in 1991.
In 1995, he was named CEO of the network and turned HBO into the most profitable channel on television.
During his seven-year tenure as CEO, he oversaw the development of several hit series, including “The Sopranos” and “Sex and the City.”
From 2002 to 2005, Bewkes was chairman of Time Warner’s entertainment and networks group. As president the last two years, he supervised Time Inc., HBO, Turner Broadcasting, Warner Brothers, Time Warner Cable and AOL.
In his new job, he will retain the title of president.
“I welcome this opportunity to work with my colleagues and the Board to lead this company successfully into the future,” Bewkes said in a statement. “We have a lot to do, and I’m intensely focused on building shareholder value.”
Bewkes succeeds the 59-year-old Parsons, who took over the company in 2002 and will stay on as chairman.
He is credited with restoring Time Warner’s credibility after the merger debacle, which caused a precipitous drop in the value of the company’s shares from which it has not recovered.
“Jeff is the right person to be the next CEO of Time Warner,” Parsons said in a statement. “His results-oriented management style and deep industry knowledge will be invaluable as he drives growth at Time Warner.”
Bewkes is an alumnus of Pierson College. His wife, Peggy Brim Bewkes ’73, was a member of Timothy Dwight College. After graduating from Yale, Bewkes received an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
He also serves on the board of trustees of the Museum of the Moving Image in New York and on the advisory boards for the Yale School of Management, the Stanford Graduate School of Business, the American Museum of Natural History, The Creative Coalition and the Museum of Television and Radio.
Bewkes could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
His term on the Corporation runs through 2012.
-The Associated Press contributed reporting.