Case, Steve

▪ 2001

      During the closing months of 1999, Steve Case, the boyish-looking 41-year-old cofounder and CEO of Internet service provider (ISP) America Online, Inc. (AOL), initiated talks that would result in the largest corporate merger in history and the coming of age of the “dot-com” industry of Internet-related businesses. His effort resulted in the January 2000 announcement that AOL would purchase entertainment behemoth Time Warner Inc. in a $183 billion deal. The move marked the latest and largest step in Case's steady path toward fulfilling a nearly 20-year-old vision of what an on-line service could be—a vision that, not so long before, few shared with the man who had become one of the most powerful executives in the world.

      Stephen M. Case was born Aug. 21, 1958, in Honolulu. His father was a corporate lawyer, his mother a teacher, and from a young age Case and his brother Dan—later a millionaire venture capitalist—began devising business opportunities for themselves. After graduating (1981) from Williams College, Williamstown, Mass., with a degree in political science, Case held positions in the marketing departments of Procter & Gamble and Pizza Hut. Not long after buying his first computer and discovering the world of on-line computing, Case took a marketing position in 1983 with Control Video Corp., a start-up company that planned to offer consumers downloadable video-game software via telephone lines. The plan failed, but the company—at Case's suggestion—regrouped and, under the name Quantum Computer Services, began providing an on-line network for users of Commodore 64 computers. Case foresaw an information-delivery service for computer users not unlike those that were being offered by Prodigy and CompuServe. His idea was to make the service far more user-friendly and more widely available. Quantum, using a friendly graphical interface originally developed by Apple Computer, Inc., became America Online in 1991 and confounded its critics by steadily outpacing all other on-line services in number of subscribers.

      By the end of 1999, Case had built AOL into the world's largest ISP, engineered AOL's takeover of rival CompuServe and of World Wide Web-browser company Netscape Communications, and arranged deals that would ensure delivery of AOL services via satellite television, palmtop computers, and wireless telephones. Throughout, he seemed unaffected by ego; steady, unassuming, and simple, he surrounded himself with capable managers and built a reputation for loyalty. As the merger unfolded, he suggested that Time Warner CEO Gerald M. Levin assume the top position of the newly created AOL Time Warner. As he moved ahead with his plans in 2000, Case appeared to be writing his own chapter in the history of communications technology.

Anthony G. Craine

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▪ American businessman
byname of  Stephen McConnell Case 
born August 21, 1958, Honolulu, Hawaii [U.S.]

      American entrepreneur who cofounded America Online, Inc. (AOL) (AOL), the world's foremost Internet service provider (ISP), and negotiated the merger in 2001 of AOL and Time Warner Inc. to create a global media and entertainment conglomerate.

      From a young age Case and his brother Dan—later a millionaire venture capitalist—devised business opportunities for themselves. After graduating (1981) from Williams College with a degree in political science, Case held positions in the marketing departments of Procter & Gamble, Pizza Hut, Inc., and Control Video Corp., a start-up company that intended to offer consumers downloadable video-game software via telephone lines. The plan failed, but the company—at Case's suggestion—regrouped and, under the name Quantum Computer Services (QCS), began providing an online network for users of Commodore 64 computers. QCS, employing a user-friendly graphical interface originally developed by Apple Computer, Inc. (now Apple Inc.), became America Online, Inc., in 1991 and steadily outpaced all other online services in number of subscribers.

      By 2000 Case had built AOL into the world's largest ISP and engineered AOL's takeover of rival CompuServe and of the World Wide Web-browser company Netscape Communications. He had also arranged deals that would ensure delivery of AOL services via satellite television, palmtop computers, and wireless telephones. In late 1999 he initiated talks with media and entertainment company Time Warner that in 2001 resulted in the largest merger in corporate history up to that time and signaled the coming of age of the dot-com industry of Internet-related businesses. Case became chairman of the board of the newly created AOL Time Warner Inc., but in 2002 the enterprise reported a record quarterly loss for a U.S. company, $54.24 billion. In 2003 the conglomerate reverted to the name Time Warner Inc., and Case resigned as chairman.

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Universalium. 2010.

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