Ken Lerer is leaving Time Warner choking on his dust. As the media giant’s struggle to “synergize” old and new media enters its second decade, Mr. Lerer puts more distance between himself and his Time Warner roots, having raided its top talent (starting with himself) and reinvented Big Media for the 21st century.
After founding a powerhouse corporate PR firm during the ’80s, he built AOL’s brand marketing in the late ’90s and ultimately became a power in the company before its merger with Time Warner in 2001. He jumped from that sinking ship in 2002, initially starting StoptheNRA.com, still his proudest achievement. After that, he teamed up with Arianna Huffington to start The Huffington Post, the little engine that could—take over AOL and make AOL pay her to do so.
Mr. Lerer earned his first fortune as a PR wizard, his second with AOL and his third by co-founding HuffPo. Between his two new companies, Lerer Ventures and Betaworks, he is in the process of striking gold for the fourth time, now with the help of his son Ben (Thrillist.com) and some of the best minds lassoed from AOL Time Warner. Mr. Lerer’s latest breakout company, BuzzFeed.com, expands new media further along the Huffington Post trajectory: a social news organization delivering reported and viral content. No one, not even the rain, understands the confounding intersection of news, entertainment, communication and the Internet. But 25 million monthly unique visitors prove that Ken Lerer is closer than most.