AOL seeks to shrink workforce by a third after spin-off

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AOL after Time Warner will be a substantially smaller company, at least in terms of the number of people it employs. The Internet pioneer, which is the parent of DailyFinance, revealed the rough outlines of a long-anticipated downsizing Thursday, saying it plans to reduce its global workforce by one-third, or 2,500 people, following its spin-off from Time Warner (TWX) next month.

To achieve that figure, the company is offering enhanced severance packages to volunteers who step forward between Dec. 4 and Dec. 11. (The spin-off will take place Dec. 9.) If the reduction can't be achieved solely through voluntary departures, the remainder will take the form of layoffs, with those workers receiving less-generous severance pay and benefits.

AOL said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it expects the restructuring -- part of a makeover referred to inside the company as "Project Everest" -- to yield annual cost savings of $300 million, although it will necessitate charges of $200 million in the first half of 2010. In an additional bit of symbolic belt-tightening, Tim Armstrong, who left Google (GOOG) to become AOL's chairman last May, is forgoing his 2009 bonus, which would have been between $1.5 million and $4 million.

While the bulk of the restructuring is being saved for after the spin-off, AOL recently laid off about 100 people. Soon-to-be-ex-parent company Time Warner embarked this month on a round of cuts at its magazine division, Time Inc. There, about 400 to 500 employees are being given buyouts or let go in a move expected to save $100 million.

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