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AOL hires former Yahoo exec to lead revamp of mobile and e-mail services

Brad Garlinghouse, president of Internet and Mobile Communications, will oversee some of AOL's best-known properties, including its instant messaging software and its e-mail system.

September 09, 2009|David Sarno

Time Warner Inc.'s America Online said Tuesday that it had hired former Yahoo Inc. executive Brad Garlinghouse to help the Internet subsidiary revamp its mobile and e-mail services.

As president of Internet and Mobile Communications, Garlinghouse will oversee some of AOL's best-known properties, including its instant messaging software and its e-mail system ("You've Got Mail"), as the company prepares to split from parent Time Warner.

At Yahoo, Garlinghouse made headlines in 2006 when he sent a memo to Yahoo employees criticizing the search-engine giant for complacency and urging the company to undergo a "radical reorganization," "blow up the matrix" and "kill redundancies."

AOL is hoping that the aggressive thinking that characterized Garlinghouse's tenure at Yahoo can help revive its sagging business. AOL has suffered brand and user attrition since its heyday as a dial-up service and is now trying to reinvent itself as a social communications hub.

"There's no doubt there are challenges ahead," Garlinghouse said in a telephone interview Monday. But that's "one of the reasons I'm excited about it."

Though Garlinghouse and AOL Chief Executive Tim Armstrong (who was also on the call) spoke mostly in the abstract about what AOL might look like in 2010, they said the broader goal is for AOL to find a way to profit from the many communications and media streams consumers now employ.

"When you think about the future of messaging -- where you have phone, text, e-mail -- content floats on those same surfaces," said Armstrong, a former senior advertising executive at Google Inc.

And where users and content commingle, advertising wants to follow, he said.

"There's a tremendous amount of information and data that gets kicked off of our products and services which allow us to make all of our systems smarter," Armstrong added, alluding to the company's capability to more efficiently market to consumers.

Garlinghouse will also be the West Coast point man for AOL Ventures, the company's business incubation arm, where he will be looking to acquire start-ups that would fit AOL's growth strategy.

"I think with Tim's heritage at Google and my heritage at Yahoo, we both see tremendous networks of people and companies to tap into," Garlinghouse said.

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david.sarno@latimes.com

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