So Sorry...

In case you missed it, former Time Warner CEO Jerry Levin was on CNBC earlier this week apologizing for the decision to merge with AOL, what is now being called one of the worst deals in history.

"I take responsibility. It wasn't the board. It wasn't my colleagues at Time Warner. It wasn't the bankers or the lawyers -- and there were a lot of them ... I am not going to blame any predecessors or successors. I helped pick them and I have great respect for them," he said. "I presided over the worst deal of the century, apparently, and it is time for those involved in companies to stand up and say, 'You know what, I am solely responsible for it, I was the C.E.O., I was in charge.'"

Levin's comments come just a few weeks after another bit of corporate contrition by GE CEO Jeff Immelt, who spoke about the "meanness and greed" in business leadership.

"Throughout my career, America has seen so much economic growth that it was easy to take as a given. But we started to forget the fundamentals, and lost sight of the core competencies of a successful modern economy."

It's easy to pooh-pooh these overtures, especially at a time when a public figure saying he's sorry has become more of a business decision than a moral imperative. Besides, we're going through a stage when it's easy to say greed is not good - few of us are in a position to be greedy even if we wanted to be. And yet there's a broader attitude at play: Money-grubbing, in any guise, is simply not cool. How long that's likely to last us anyone's guess, but its influence on these hot shots is undeniable.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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