Steve Case was born on August 21, 1958, in Honolulu, Hawaii. In 1983, he was hired as a marketing consultant for Control Video. That company eventually morphed into America Online (AOL), and Case became CEO in 1991. Under Case's watch, AOL went through a massive $350 billion merger with Time Warner. Case served as chairman of AOL Time Warner Inc. until his resignation in 2003. In 2011, he was selected by President Barack Obama to serve as chairman of the Startup America Partnership.
Entrepreneur and businessman Stephen McConnell Case was born on August 21, 1958, in Honolulu, Hawaii. Case began his entrepreneurial career at age 6, when he and his older brother set up a juice stand, selling lime juice for 2¢ a cup. Not long after, the brothers established Case Enterprises, which sold seeds and greeting cards through the mail and with door-to-door sales. Case attended Williams College, where he showed an avid interest in music: He wrote rock reviews for small local papers in order to get free concert tickets and albums and sang with two new-wave rock groups.
Case put his entrepreneurial instincts on hold after graduating with a B.A. in political science in 1980. He went to work for Proctor & Gamble, where he marketed hair care products, including Lilt home permanents. Later he joined PepsiCo, where he managed new pizza development for PepsiCo's Pizza Hut division from 1982-1983. His job required extensive travel, visiting restaurants in the field to sample new pizza varieties.
By 1983, he missed the entrepreneurial life. That year he stopped at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas with his older brother Dan, who worked at the high-profile venture capitalist firm Hambrecht & Quist. Dan introduced him to the founders of Control Video (a gaming service for Atari computer users), who offered Case a job as marketing assistant.
America Online Formation
Case took the job and stayed with the company during several years of turmoil, recruiting capital for the company. In 1985, the company changed its name to Quantum Computer Services and focused on providing online service for Commodore computer users. Case also struck online service deals with the Apple and Tandy Corporations. In 1991, Case held a company contest to pick a new name for the firm, and selected America Online (AOL), the name he suggested himself.
The following year, Case became CEO of the company. With only 200,000 members, AOL lagged behind CompuServe and Prodigy, while other players were rapidly entering the market. The company went public in 1992, raising $66 million, which Case directed toward rapid growth.
Through aggressive marketing that included packaging AOL disks in magazines or sending them through a direct-mail campaign, membership grew steadily through the 1990s, reaching 17 million members in 1999. Despite growing pains, which included occasional service blackouts and busy signals that enraged customers, the company continued to grow, successfully outlasting threats by Microsoft, and by the development of the World Wide Web itself.
In late 1998, the company purchased longtime rival CompuServe and in March 1999, bought Netscape, becoming the largest and most significant online player in the industry. So significant was the purchase of AOL, in fact, that Bill Gates' lawyers argued that the U.S. Justice Department should drop its antitrust suit against Microsoft, which now faced stiffer competition in the online arena.
AOL Time Warner Merger
In January 2000, AOL announced that it would purchase Time Warner Inc. (the world's largest media and entertainment company) for $166 billion in stock. Time Warner's extended list of media holdings include: CNN and HBO; Time, People and Sports Illustrated magazines; and the Warner Bros. film, television and music properties. Case was appointed chairman of the new media conglomerate (to be named AOL Time Warner Inc.), while Gerald Levin, the then chairman and CEO of Time Warner, was named chief executive officer. The AOL Time Warner merger—the biggest in history—was finalized and approved by the U.S. government in early 2001.
Under Case's direction, AOL partnered with Sprint PCS and Nokia in order to expand AOL's services from desktop computers to wireless media (cellular phones, pagers and electronic organizers). Despite these efforts, the company's share price continued to plummet, and in January 2003, Case resigned from his post.
In 2011, Case was selected by President Barack Obama to serve as chairman of the Startup America Partnership.
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