Farewell Steve Case

You're not the first to fall and you won't be the last...

You're not the first to fall and you won't be the last...

So farewell Steve Case, Hawaiian, one-time Pizza Hut employee (you too!) and new media visionary. Odds are the last part will provide his most enduring legacy, in case you hadn't guessed. For one thing, once Case steps down from the AOL chairman role in the spring, who is to say he won't carry on being as influential in the 'new economy'? Can he do so within AOL Time Warner? The clever money says No. When Ted Turner and John Malone are on the short-list of executives wanting you gone - or so the sources say - name a leader who could survive. With COO Bob Pittman - a former MTV wunderkind and Case's right-hand man - exiting stage left last year and the Time Warner old guard increasingly heading all kinds of AOL TW units, the odds on Case seeing through the downturn were short. (2-1 on him surviving til September, in fact, according to us last September - see: http://www.silicon.com/a55390 ) And is it a coincidence that Case will step down almost exactly a year after Richard Parsons took the CEO job? Whether anyone else could have built up AOL into the internet giant that was able to swallow Time Warner all those Januarys ago is a more difficult question. We predict Case will be back. He may stay in AOL TW's employ for a while but elsewhere - bar a full blown accounting scandal following the ongoing SEC investigation - he'd be in more demand. It may well be that, as one pundit told silicon.com last year, "Case just gets the internet", but in the current climate, even the most successful net entrepreneurs can look like they have lost their Midas touch. And consider the company he is in - the new economy executives whose fate has been, if anything, worse than his over the past few months. Michel Bon, Thomas Middelhoff, Ron Sommer, Jean-Marie Messier, Chris Gent and Shaun Fanning - all were the heart and soul of high-profile technology/media/telecoms companies, and where are they now? Less than a year ago they were on the silicon.com Agenda Setter 2002 (http://www.silicon.com/as2002) list. If ever evidence were needed the honeymoon for the Internet Age is over, these men - and Case above all others - are the proof.