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McGuirk Rules Braves, Hawks, Thrashers

Former Turner Broadcasting System Inc. CEO Terry McGuirk didn't stay on the sidelines very long after he was kicked upstairs as chairman in March.

Last week, successor Jamie Kellner named McGuirk CEO of Turner Sports Teams, where he'll run AOL Time Warner Inc.'s Atlanta-based sports franchises: Major League Baseball's Braves, the National Basketball Association's Hawks and the National Hockey League's Thrashers.

McGuirk — who said he was approached about the position by AOL Time Warner president Bob Pittman — said the sports teams will operate independently of their parent company.

"There is I think a sensitivity on the part of AOL to the fact that these teams need to operate somewhat independently," said McGuirk. "[There is a] need to be somewhat free of the rigors of cost-cutting and the goals that AOL has in mind for operating its business."

After joining TBS Inc. in 1972 as an account executive, McGuirk moved up through the ranks before serving as president of Turner Sports from 1989 to 1996. He was promoted to TBS Inc. CEO in 1996, after its merger with what was then Time Warner Inc.

McGuirk said he will not be involved in acquiring sports rights or developing programming for Turner Sports, but he will advise division president Mark Lazarus in those areas.

One of his immediate challenges will be dealing with the Major League Baseball labor contract, which expires on Oct. 31. It took the sport a few years to recover from the 1994 strike, and the owners obviously want to avoid another work stoppage.

"I think there's no question that baseball is operating with a model that does not work long term, and there is a great urgency to fix it," McGuirk said. "I have great faith in [MLB commissioner] Bud Selig and support him 100 percent.

"And possibly in this new role, I look forward to seeing how we can get him to get to the goals that I know he has laid out for himself to fix these problems."

McGuirk, who said he wanted to spend more time with his family when he stepped down in March as TBS Inc. CEO, said that remains a priority.

"I never intended to step entirely away. I still intend to balance the activity that I'm going to be performing with the company with a more active home and family life with my four teenagers."