AOL Appoints British CEO for ICQ

American media giant AOL-Time Warner (NYSE: AOL) recently appointed a British CEO to ICQ, TheMarker has learned.

The new CEO, Mark Bernstein, will manage the Israeli company, which employs approximately 10 people in its Kiryat Atidim headquarters.

Bernstein is replacing Israeli joint CEOs Ariel Yarnitzky and Avi Schecter who resigned their positions. “After five years at the company, from before its sale to AOL, we felt we had exhausted the potential for growth in the job and will move on to private enterprise. Both of us will continue to serve as advisors to the company,” the pair stated.

Yarnitzky and Schechter refused to detail their future plans but said they are “interested in devoting time to their families” and are involved in an international venture that does not compete with AOL.

ICQ’s management, an AOL subsidiary whose entire operation is based in Israel, is the responsibility of Steven McArthur, AOL vice president of messaging operations, which includes both ICQ and AOL Messenger. McArthur told TheMarker that Bernstein was brought into the AOL group for the ICQ position, and that he has vast experience in the Internet sector. Bernstein was previously, among others, with online community company GeoCities.

“Bernstein will work four days a week in Tel Aviv, and return to his London home the rest of the time,” McArthur said, adding that Bernstein will be charged with the continuing development of ICQ’s strengths as well as integration of positive work in other AOL units. McArthur didn’t comment on the option ICQ could be moved abroad or be merged into other AOL instant messaging operations.

In 2001, ICQ posted impressive revenues of $150 million, mostly from advertising on various messaging products, but the retiring CEOs confirmed that the company was impacted in 2002 by the slowdown in the Internet advertising sector. “There was a global slowdown, and it obviously affected us as well,” they stated.

Nonetheless, the two said the company met all its commercial targets for the year and made all the milestones set in the purchase, meaning original shareholders received the entire sum set at the time in cash.