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12/10/2009
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AOL Completes Spin-Off From Time Warner

The standalone company's stock value dropped on its first day of trading on its new AOL symbol.

A decade and many billions of dollars up in smoke, AOL became a standalone company again Thursday as it spun off from Time Warner.

AOL stock dropped while Time Warner's rose as trading began on the new "AOL" stock symbol and new AOL chief executive Tim Armstrong was on hand at the New York Stock Exchange to ring in trading.

When the merger of AOL and Time Warner took place in February 2000, the company, then called AOL Time Warner, was valued at $164 billion. This week AOL is valued at $2.5 billion and Time Warner at $36 billion, according to the New York Times VentureBeat blog.

After 2000, AOL's familiar "You've got mail!" mantra quickly changed to "You've got no job" as the deal unraveled, and unraveled, and unraveled. Thousands of employees lost their jobs, as the stock went into free fall but the Titanic of business mergers sent its captain, AOL's Steve Case, off with a large fortune.

Now Armstrong, a highly regarded former Google executive, is planning to build AOL's advertising and content, things it never quite constructed over the last decade. AOL has kept valuable assets in its AOL.com home pages, Mapquest navigation, and Endgadget blog.

Time Warner is keeping entertainment site TMZ as well as traditional assets like CNN, HBO, TBS, and TNT, along with its magazine stable led by Time and Sports Illustrated.

AOL's e-mail users, many of whom have stuck with the service for years, received a notice Thursday from Brad Garlinghouse, president of AOL consumer applications, promising a renewed effort to rebuild "trust, confidence, and passion around AOL."

He promised three simple and important changes -- fewer ads, easier e-mail sign-in, and a simpler e-mail reading pane.

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