AOL, meet the new boss

Come January, Jeff Bewkes will be Time Warner's new CEO, displacing Dick Parsons. The change was widely expected since Bewkes's appointment as chief operating officer in 2005. That's also when AOL, for the first time, fell under Bewkes's command. AOL CEO Randy Falco was widely seen as a Bewkes hire, and Bewkes's hand was also seen in the purchase of Tacoda, an ad-targeting firm headed by Curt Viebranz, who formerly worked for Bewkes at HBO. The most intriguing rumor I've heard: When things settle down at AOL, Falco could be headed upstairs to fill Bewkes's recently vacated COO spot — and Viebranz would then become AOL's next CEO.

Some insiders doubt this, expecting Falco to retire instead and saying it's premature to speculate on Viebranz's future. Certainly, Falco and Viebranz have plenty of opportunities to screw up and nix these moves. But I'm most fascinated by the man who's left out in the cold in any scenario being whispered: Ron Grant, AOL's COO and Falco's so-called "human computer." Apparently Time Warner management views him as fit for number-crunching and payroll-slashing, not actual leadership material.