Time Warner has never said that AOL is for sale, but there has been rampant speculation for years that it might eventually go on the block. The chatter has gotten louder now that a new chief executive, Jeff Bewkes, has taken over at Time Warner.
AOL has some attractive assets, including the celebrity gossip site TMZ.com and the ticket-buying service Moviefone, Mr. Greenfield wrote. But the growth prospects for its Internet-access business are grim, and the content on AOL.com and its related sites becomes "less exciting by the day," he added.
Despite all this, Mr. Greenfield does allow himself to indulge in a bit of speculation about some possible buyers for AOL.
His list includes the cable company Comcast, which he says might want to build out its Internet access business with some content. In the end, though, he concludes that "it’s hard to imagine Comcast wanting to (or having the guts) to pay over $10 [billion] for a slowly declining business that is outside its core competencies."
News Corporation is no stranger to daring acquisitions. Might Rupert Murdoch try to combine AOL with MySpace, the social-networking site? Though it has been widely reported that Mr. Murdoch was interested in some kind of deal between MySpace and Yahoo, Mr. Greenfield dismissed an AOL-MySpace match-up as "toxic."
And then there is Google, the Web giant whose dominance is the driving factor behind Microsoft’s Yahoo bid. Though Google already owns 5 percent of AOL, Mr. Greenfield said it is not easy to see why such a successful Internet player would want to own a small and floundering competitor — unless it were simply to keep it out of the hands of a combined Microsoft-Yahoo.