He brought the Internet to 25.8 million consumers through AOL's easy-to-use dial-up online services. Now his pending takeover of Time Warner Inc. turns AOL into an all-media powerhouse.
To integrate two very different corporate cultures so he can take full advantage of the potential synergies between AOL's online services and Time Warner's movies, TV programs and magazines. Time Warner is famous for having business fiefdoms that don't play well together.
Stephen M. Case is spending his time these days prowling the vast reaches of his empire-to-be. Since January, when the CEO of America Online Inc. (AOL) announced an eye-popping $183 billion merger with media behemoth Time Warner Inc., he has scoped out properties he'll own should the deal be approved this fall. First was the Warner Bros. set of Fail Safe in Burbank, Calif., then Time's editorial offices in Manhattan. In multiple daily phone calls, e-mails, and AOL ''instant messages'' with Time Warner CEO Gerald M. Levin, Case is mapping out ways to combine New and Old Worlds to bring consumers what they want--perhaps even before they know it themselves.
Chairman Case, 41, focuses on strategy, just as he did before the merger was announced. But the scale--and the challenges--have magnified with the acquisition of Time Warner. AOL has an unsurpassed online reach of 25.8 million subscribers, while Time Warner boasts vast holdings in publishing, cable, music, film, and broadcasting. As the PC, TV, phone, and stereo converge, Case will have the pieces to create brand new businesses. He foresees everything from digital downloads of Warner Music's artists over AOL's Internet sites to video-on-demand services featuring Warner Bros. movies to the delivery of CNN headlines to cell phones. ''Because of the diversity of our assets, we will be uniquely positioned to bring the promise of a connected world into reality,'' says Case.
Case knows he can't afford to stand pat. While AOL is the king of dial-up Web access via the PC, consumers are embracing next-generation broadband Internet links and non-PC Web devices. By pursuing partnerships with cell phone and TV makers and broadband providers, Case has to keep in step with the changing world even as he helps form it.