Job Hunting

Exec Hiring to Pick Up, Says Survey

Employers say executive hiring will pick up this year; recruiters say the same thing. Elsewhere: former SEC accountant named vice chairman at AOL T...
Lisa YoonMarch 4, 2003

For executives and recruiters alike, hope apparently prevails that the sour job market will start to improve. Or at least, that appears to be the take away from two new surveys by ExecuNet, an executive-career resource.

In one survey of 1,185 executives, 79 percent said they think the economy is going to rebound in 2003, while 21 percent expect to wait another year for an uptick. When asked about their expectations for the executive employment market during the next twelve months, 65 percent said they believe the employment market will be better in 2003 than it was in 2002. On the other hand, about a third of the respondents expect the market to remain unchanged from 2002. A less sanguine five percent expect the job scene to worsen.

Meanwhile, in a survey of 323 search professionals, recruiters predicted a 15 percent rise in executive search assignments for 200 compared with 2002. Last year, demand dropped 20 percent. The most promising sectors for executive hiring were biotech, healthcare, manufacturing, financial services, and consumer products.

Obviously, several of those categories — most notably manufacturing and financial services — have seen a wave off senior management layoffs in the past two years. If the economy is indeed starting to turnaround (as the first ExecuNet survey indicates), it could be that manufacturers and financial services companies will be the first to staff up.

CFOs On the Move

Stephen M. Swad was named CFO of AOL, the job vacated when Joseph Ripp was promoted to vice chairman of AOL-Time Warner. Swad was most recently executive VP of finance and administration at Turner Broadcasting System Inc., an AOL-Time Warner division. Swad joined Time Warner in 1998 as VP and deputy controller. He also served as VP of financial planning and analysis for AOL-Time Warner.

While America Online Inc. may have purchased Time Warner in the 2001 merger, recent events make it pretty clear that Time Warner is regaining control of the executive ranks at the media giant.

The appointments of Swad and Ripp are examples of a pattern of placing Time Warner veterans in top positions in an attempt to restore the company’s former strength. As Mark Zadell, a media and Internet analyst at Blaylock & Partners, told Reuters, “The company is taking proven Time Warner executives to AOL to manage the business as a more mature business as opposed to simply a growth vehicle.”

Things have not gone well for AOL-Time Warner since the mega-merger. In addition to declining revenues and share price, the company’s also facing an investigation by the Securities Exchange Commission for possible accounting irregularities.

That, of course, may be another reason for Swad’s appointment: Before joining Time Warner, he served a stint as deputy chief accountant with the SEC.

The exodus of executives in the past year includes chairman and AOL founder Steve Case, Turner Broadcasting head Jamie Kellner, and CNN chief Walter Isaacson. Former AOL-Time Warner CEO Gerald Levin and COO Robert Pittman, both key players in the merger, also left.

Given the recent promotions of so many Time Warner executives at the media giant, the only real question left for America Online is: how long will it be before “AOL” is dropped from the company name. It’s doubtful many analysts would take the over on that bet.