It's been a pretty tumultuous year at Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) AOL, so why not end the year with some more turmoil? Four executives have abruptly resigned, and now there's fierce speculation as to what exactly that means as the online unit continues to work on revamping its strategy.

According to The Washington Post, among other media sources, Joe Redling, chairman of AOL International and president of AOL Mobile; James P. Bankoff, executive vice president of programming and products; Randy Boe, former general counsel and executive vice president of consumer advocacy and privacy; and John Buckley, executive vice president of corporate communications, are all about to hit the road. Time Warner and AOL spokespeople didn't comment for The Post, and no official announcements have been made.

Such news breeds speculation, given the imminent signs of seismic activity at AOL as the year comes to a close. Last week, 450 people were laid off from AOL, since their jobs related to the now-defunct subscription model. And new Chief Executive Randy Falco, who is replacing Jonathan Miller, is expected to announce a major reorganization within the next few days.

There are whispers that AOL is being groomed to be sold within the next year or so, too. True, 2006 has been a year of acquisitive madness from some of the heavyweights like Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), with its purchase of YouTube, and News Corp. (NYSE:NWS), which did well buying MySpace. And it's been no secret that AOL has Web 2.0 aspirations. However, as recently as last week, reports surfaced that Time Warner COO Jeff Bewkes said that while Time Warner seeks to do what's best for the long term, there's still "too much upside" for AOL to sell it now.

Although news reports pointed out that these departures mean AOL will be losing some of its longstanding executives, I'm not sure all of us would think that's a bad thing. After all, AOL has had its share of missteps and gaffes over the years as the Internet -- and Internet users -- basically evolved without it. Maybe an infusion of new blood into its leadership is just what AOL needs as it tries to overcome its past mistakes and step squarely into the future.

Few of us can help participating in rampant speculation when things like this come to pass. It's kind of fun to think of all the "what-if's," especially for investors who are looking for growth catalysts for companies on their watch lists. (And the Post article focused on AOL employee speculation -- it's obviously of great interest to them what it all means as well.) Yet given the clear intention AOL has displayed all year to change the way it does business, I wonder whether this kind of news should be any surprise whatsoever to anyone.

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Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.