AOL Honchos reassure Netscape staffers

Netscape's 2000-plus staff have been assured by America Online CEO Steve Case and President Bob Pittman that their jobs will still exist in the wake of AOL's acqusition of Netscape. Case told staffers that the 'take-your-dog-to-work' atmosphere at the company would remain, and Pittman emphasised his credibility in running a multiple-branded company - MTV Networks - in promising that the Netscape brand would continue.

At a two-and-a-half-hour companywide meeting held Monday afternoon at Netscape Communications' headquarters in Mountain View, California, America Online CEO Steve Case and President Bob Pittman addressed the 2,000-plus staff of Netscape, which agreed last week to be acquired by AOL.

At several points Case, Pittman and Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale assured Netscape employees that things wouldn't change, even as the merger kicked off.

Case dove straight into the subject at the top of most Netscape employees' minds: what the deal means for them and their jobs. According to a Netscape rep, Case told staffers that the "take-your-dog-to-work (atmosphere) would remain" and that Netscape's sabbatical program -- extended leave-with-pay periods -- would continue for all current Netscape employees.

Pittman said the Netscape brand name would persist, and cited his experience running MTV Networks as an example of a company with multiple-branded components (MTV Networks owns cable channels VH-1, Nickelodeon and MTV).

But the most vocal concerns came from employees who feared that the relationship with Sun Microsystems would create overlap in their jobs. Last week, as part of the deal, Sun agreed to assume sales of Netscape products through the same sales channels it uses for its own products.

Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy, who was also present, said that Sun staffers and Netscape staffers would "collaborate."

The meeting was the second all-hands event since the deal was announced, at which time Barksdale alone addressed Netscape employees.

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