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If you like Stephen Cases's story, you might also like:
Timothy Berners-Lee,
Jeffrey Bezos,
Michael Dell,
Lawrence Ellison,
Bill Gates,
Reid Hoffman,
Jeong Kim,
James Kimsey,
Pierre Omidyar,
Larry Page,
Carlos Slim
and Ted Turner

Stephen Cases's recommended reading: The Third Wave

Related Links:
Case Foundation

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Steve Case
Steve Case
Profile of Steve Case Biography of Steve Case Interview with Steve Case Steve Case Photo Gallery

Steve Case Biography

Co-Founder, America Online

Steve Case Date of birth: August 21, 1958

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  Steve Case

Stephen M. Case was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. His father was an attorney, his mother an elementary school teacher. The third of four children, young Steve showed an entrepreneurial bent from an early age. At six, he started a juice stand with his brother Daniel, using limes from their own back yard. The brothers shared a paper route, sold seeds and magazine subscriptions and started a mail order company they called Case Enterprises.

After studying political science at Williams College, Steve Case worked for Procter and Gamble, then managed pizza development for Pepsi's Pizza Hut unit. While traveling for Pizza Hut, he spent many evenings amusing himself with a new gadget, the personal computer. After exploring one of the first online services, the Source, he became fascinated with the possibilities of the online world. His brother Daniel, who had become an investment banker, invited him to attend the 1983 Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas, where he introduced him to the directors of Control Video, a struggling computer game company. Control Video offered Steve a job as a marketing assistant on the spot, and he jumped at the opportunity to pursue his vision of an interactive world of computer-based communication and entertainment.

Steve Case Biography Photo
Control Video, based in Washington, D.C., was principally occupied with providing an online gaming service for Atari computer owners, but when Atari faltered, the service was no longer in demand and Control Video struggled to survive. As Control Video drastically reduced its staff, Case became the company's marketing director. With new CEO James Kimsey at the helm, Control Video made a deal to manage an online gaming service for Commodore computers. They managed to pay off the company's smaller creditors and offered the larger debt-holders a stake in the venture, renamed Quantum Computer Services in 1985.

Case tirelessly sought new investors for the venture, and in 1987 landed a deal to provide custom online services for Apple Computers. Not long after, he made a similar deal with Tandy, but when Apple withdrew from the agreement in 1989 to manage its own online service, Case and Quantum were again faced with a crisis. Case believed the only solution was for Quantum to create its own branded online service that would be independent of any hardware manufacturer. The new service, which Case named America Online, made its national debut in 1989. Quantum Computer Services changed its name to America Online, Inc. in 1991.

As a subscription-based online community, the fledgling AOL placed itself in direct competition with CompuServe, Prodigy and Genie, all backed by large corporate players like IBM, Sears and General Electric. AOL emphasized ease of use, creating a friendly, well-designed environment that attracted average consumers who had not warmed to the forbidding high-tech aura of the larger text-based corporate services. By the end of 1994, AOL had acquired more than a million subscribers and began expansion overseas. Threatened by the upstart, CompuServe tried to buy out AOL for $50 million. At the time, it seemed a reasonable offer and many observers thought AOL made a mistake in turning it down. When AOL went public in 1992 , it still trailed CompuServe in its subscriber base, in three years it had surpassed it.

Steve Case Biography Photo
From the beginning Chairman Kimsey had groomed Steve Case to lead the company, in 1991, Kimsey named Case as his successor and the young marketing executive gradually took over AOL's day-to-day operations. In 1993 he took charge as CEO, while Kimsey stayed on as Chairman. In 1997 Kimsey retired and Steve Case assumed full duties as both Chairman and CEO.

AOL had come to the fore as the leading provider of branded online content, but as more home computer users gained access to the Internet through their phone companies and other providers, industry observers thought they saw AOL's reign coming to an end. Steve Case quickly adapted to the changing marketplace and set out to make AOL the most popular portal for the average consumer to enter the Internet.

With its user-friendly interface, AOL soon consolidated its position as the leading Internet service provider. Even mighty Microsoft, unable to dominate the Internet as it had the realm of system software, looked for ways to neutralize or acquire control of AOL, but Case stood his ground, and in time both Microsoft and telecommunications giant AT&T concluded partnership agreements with AOL. In 1998 AOL bought out the online services of its old rival CompuServe, and in 1999 it acquired Netscape Communications, the maker of popular Internet browsing software. Again and again, Steve Case had confounded his critics. While they predicted AOL's imminent demise, he had created the first blue chip company of the Internet.

Steve Case Biography Photo
Under Case's leadership, America Online led the industry in such areas as consumer privacy, integrating technology into schools and ensuring the safety of children on the Internet. Case had succeeded in making the Internet as much a part of the American home as television or the telephone. He quickly identified the next challenges, acquiring broadband access for his user base, and integrating the old media world of the film and music industries with the new media world of computers and the Internet.

In 2001 Steve Case orchestrated a merger the business press called "the deal of the century," acquiring entertainment and multimedia giant Time Warner for $164 billion in cash and stock. For two years after the merger, Case served as Chairman of the combined enterprise, AOL Time Warner, the largest media company in the world. As Chairman, Case oversaw an unprecedented array of media holdings, including the Warner Brothers film studio, Time Inc. publishing, Turner Broadcasting and CNN. AOL's membership peaked at 27 million in 2002, but hoped-for synergies between old and new media companies never materialized. An industry-wide downturn for Internet providers was devastating to AOL, whose losses became a serious liability for the parent company. In 2003, the parent company dropped the name AOL from its title and Steve Case stepped down as Chairman of the Board of Directors; he left the board altogether in 2005.

Steve Case Biography Photo
Steve Case now devotes much of his energy to philanthropic activities. In the same year as the Time Warner merger, he teamed once again with his very first business partner, his brother Dan, to found Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure (ABC2), an organization that applies an entrepreneurial model to the funding of brain cancer research. Daniel Case succumbed to the disease in 2002, but Steve carries on their work, serving as Chairman of both ABC2 and The Case Foundation, a private family foundation he established with his wife Jean in 1997. Although he has made his home in the Washington, D.C. area for more than 20 years, he remains actively involved in the life of his home state, investing in enterprises that provide new operating models for agriculture and sustainable development in Hawaii.

By 2009, it was widely acknowledged that the merger of AOL and Time Warner had failed completely, forcing the combined company to write off an unprecedented $100 billion in charges. Time Warner announced its decision to spin off AOL as an independent. company once again. Steve Case, no longer a member of the Board of Directors, expressed the hope that the company he built would find its way again as an independent player in the ever-changing Internet marketplace.

This page last revised on Jun 04, 2009 10:39 EDT
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