So Long, Corner Office: Time Warner Chief Takes Life Lessons to Rehab Center
Gerald Levin dropped out of the corporate world to open Moonview Sanctuary, an "alternative" facility.
As Levin explains it, the real hardship in his life began in 1997, when his 31-year-old son Jonathan, a Bronx public school teacher, was brutally murdered by his former students in his Upper West Side apartment. The devastation in Levin's personal life was followed three years later by the AOL (AOL) debacle. The force of these two things pushed Levin to leave the business world. Shortly before his retirement from AOL Time Warner, Levin met Laurie Perlman, a former Hollywood agent. Perlman eventually became his wife and business partner.
Levin has spent the last 10 years hidden away in Santa Monica's Moonview Sanctuary -- not as a client of the high-priced rehab facility, but as one of the founders. The outpatient facility caters to high-profile celebrities and executives (with a price tag of $175,000 for a full year of service; and a minimum fee of $15,000 for three days of service) who need help with everything from drugs to depression to chronic pain, and even creative-focus training. Moonview's menu of services includes acupuncture, yoga, equine therapy, and drum circles; the center also has equipment for brain-mapping technology. "The one thing that I believe underscores everything that we do is the idea that once you get past someone's medical issues is to get at their fundamental purpose," said Levin.
When first opening Moonview with his wife, Levin assumed the role of financier and marketer, but when her speaking career began taking her away from the facility more often, he took on more of the day-to-day work at Moonview. "Increasingly I've become interested in working with the clients and patients because I can really put my life experience in the service of them," he tells Minyanville. "Remarkably, I've experienced, or interacted with, people with the same issues as the clients that we are treating."
Levin says that he often meets with clients to talk about the experiences and tragedies in his own life and how clients can learn from his life lessons or relate to the position he was once in. "They are seeing someone who may have been a hard-driving 25-hour-a-day executive who now appears transformed -- more open, more conscious of what's going on," he added.
Despite the drastic life change, Levin contests that he is still fundamentally the same person he was when running Time Warner; he admits to still reading box office figures every morning and still having a zest for the media business. Yet, he knows that he is now fundamentally different from many of the executives running major companies today.
In January, 10 years after the AOL-Time Warner merger and shortly after the dissolution of said merger, Levin apologized to the public on an episode of CNBC's Squawk Box, taking the entire fault upon himself for the disastrous move. (See Stupid Business Decisions: Time Warner Merges With AOL)
He wanted to make the gesture, he says, because he "noticed a lot of the difficulties and desperate circumstances that people have been put in due to the decisions of companies, and therefore the CEOs.
"I thought it was probably incumbent upon me that I apologize for the hurt that I had caused by the result of the merger. As CEO, at some point, you have to stand up and take singular responsibility for everything you do," he adds.
Levin criticizes current CEOs for their lack of culpability during the recent economic collapse. "The thing that bothered me was other people pushing blame on successors or their board; saying they weren't to blame," he adds. (See Gerald Levin's Five Lessons for Today's CEOs)
These days, he couldn't be happier with where his life has taken him. "Instead of just going off into the sunset, I've worked on myself and developed a very close relationship with my family," he says. "I'm happily married and I'm in a profession that really is a healing area; that's pretty significant."
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