It would be hard to find another résumé as diverse as that of Robert Kimmitt, AOL Time Warner's new executive vice president in charge of global and strategic policy. AOL Time Warner is looking to expand into international markets, and Kimmitt, who has worked at the National Security Council and the State Department and as ambassador to Germany, has vast international experience, not to mention stellar business credentials.
"I think that what I might miss in terms of prior experience in the media and entertainment business I make up with pretty rich diversity in both my public- and private-sector lives," Kimmitt says.
He also brings a network that few can rival. "About 75% of the people in this administration are people I know well and with whom I've dealt before," he says. "I've known the president since his dad's campaign in 1988. And I've known Dick Cheney since that time."
At AOL Time Warner, Kimmitt will be able to wear all his hats: lawyer, policymaker, businessman, Internet executive. In his first month, he has met with most of the company's top executives, had a high-level meeting at the State Department and sat in at a trade conference at the White House.
"Fundamentally," he says, "what I want to do is align public policy on a global basis with our business objectives."
Those who know him don't doubt his ability to accomplish that.
Says Jim Cicconi, executive vice president of AT&T Corp. and a fellow alumnus of the Reagan and Bush administrations, "He's an outstanding individual, a talented lawyer and a very accomplished diplomat."
Pam Turner, senior vice president of government affairs at NCTA who worked with Kimmitt in the Reagan White House, points out that he had a good teacher: his father. "His strength is in policy—whether in the international arena or economics and business—but he also has a lot of political sense that starts with his dad," who was a senior staffer for the majority in the Senate and "taught a lot of us the ropes as we went up to the Hill."
Following service in Vietnam, where he earned three Bronze Stars, the Purple Heart, the Air Medal and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, Kimmitt attended Georgetown Law School and interned one summer at the National Security Council, a job that launched his career. After a year of clerking for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, he returned to the NSC and rose eventually to its No. 3 spot.
When White House Chief of Staff Jim Baker became Treasury Secretary, he asked Kimmitt to serve as his general counsel. Feeling that his "string had run out" at the NSC, he took Baker up on his offer. "The general counsel's position in a major agency seemed like a challenge, and I like looking for challenges where I can learn new things."
That attitude has taken Kimmitt through many jobs and many careers, most recently as president of e-commerce outfit Commerce One, Pleasanton, Calif.
Kimmitt says it wasn't easy for him to leave Silicon Valley and the Internet to return to Washington and politics. Commerce One, like all Internet companies, is struggling to survive, and he had just moved his family to California. "I would love to have taken this job in the summer of '02, but the only way I could get this job in the summer of '02 was to take it in the summer of '01."
He has a big job ahead of him: making AOL Time Warner the most valued and respected company in the world.
"To be the most valued," he says, "we have got to continue to perform against good business metrics. To be respected, we've got to make sure that the values that drive our company and our businesses are the right ones. I was very attracted to that combination."
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Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.