AOL gets new CFO days after takeover rumors surface

America Online has appointed a new chief financial officer, two days after published reports said the world's largest Internet service provider was targeted for a takeover by AT&T, and a day after AOL executives denied the company was for sale. J. Michael Kelly, 41, has been appointed senior vice president and chief financial officer (CFO). Kelly was executive vice president for finance and planning and CFO at GTE.

America Online has appointed a new chief financial officer, two days after published reports said the world's largest Internet service provider was targeted for a takeover by AT&T, and a day after AOL executives denied the company was for sale.

J. Michael Kelly, 41, has been appointed senior vice president and chief financial officer (CFO), AOL said in a statement. Kelly was executive vice president for finance and planning and CFO at GTE Corp. He will report to AOL Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Steve Case.

Kelly replaces Lennert Leaders, who has been AOL CFO since 1989 and recently was appointed president of AOL Investments.

AOL, which has more than 12 million members worldwide, reportedly turned down an offer from AT&T, according to Reuters, which cited an article in The Financial Times on Wednesday, and the New York Times, which followed the story a day later quoting unnamed sources close to the negotiations.

The Financial Times placed the offer price at above AOL's market value, which hovered at US$19 billion at the end of trading on Tuesday.

AOL and AT&T were in preliminary negotiations for several weeks, according to the New York Times, which also reported that Case and AOL President Robert Pittman on Wednesday sent e-mail to employees saying that the company is not for sale.

"We are committed to remaining an independent company, as that is the best course for our customers, shareholders and employees," the New York Times quoted Case and Pittman as saying in the e-mail. "We continue to be eager to establish alliances with a wide range of telecommunications, media and technology companies."

An AT&T spokeswoman declined to comment, citing a policy that the company does not respond to rumor or speculation. AOL did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment.

AOL, in Dulles, Virginia, can be reached at http://www.aol.com/. AT&T, in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, can be reached at http://www.att.com/.

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