Dick Parsons, born in th economically disadvantaged Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn in 1948 and raised in the rough and tumble Jamaica, Queens, has spent most of his profession life fighting – and usually winning – uphill battles. Today he faces the biggest so far when Carl Icahn, the serial activist investor launches a campaign to remove Parsons from his job as chairman and chief executive of Time Warner.
Parsons took over in 2002 after Time Warner’s ill-fated $300 billion merger with AOL which turned out to be the worst in the history of misbegotten mega-mergers and the compny subsequently recorded the largest write down in the history of American business – an astonishing $90 billion.
Parsons continues to defend his conglomerate structure but plans to spin off 16% of Time Warner Cable when its acquisition of Adelphia is completed this year. Icahn wants more radical change, including the spinning off of the entire cable business and the company to buy back $20 billion of shares.
The decisive shareholders will be in May and the going will be rough but Parsons is a big man in every respect and a tough fighter as his business track record shows. A lawyer, he cut his political teeth in Washington in the aftermath of Watergate and later joined a blue-chip law firm where he quickly established a reputation as a can-do problem solver with a soft touch.
He was called in to rescue the huge and deeply troubled Dime Savings Bank of New York by masterminding a complicated merger with Achor Savings Bank which created a $20 billion financial institution with impeccable credentials.
Parsons is an Africn American of prodigious accomplishment and massive physical presence – he’s broad-shouldered, deep-voiced 6 foot 4 – who nonetheless has been underestimated throughout his career. Some people have blamed racism but it is also the result of his own effort. In that way that some people work hard to smooth their rough edges, Parsons has endeavoured to shrink himself to better disam foes and rivals.
Unpretenious and low key, he will need ll of his business acumen and diplomcatic skills to ward off the Icahn attacb but observers say they wouldn’t bet again Parsons.