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Case stays AOL Time Warner chief

New York, Sept. 20 (Reuters): Steve Case was still in the chairman’s seat after the conclusion of AOL Time Warner Inc.’s board meeting on Thursday despite widespread speculation he would be challenged by investors and board members, including vice-chairman Ted Turner.

“Just as we repeatedly said, Steve Case is the company’s chairman and will remain so,” an AOL Time Warner spokeswoman said after the meeting was over. “Steve Case and (chief executive) Dick Parsons conducted regular board business at today’s meeting.”

The meeting in New York did not result in a boardroom coup. Instead, executives from the world’s largest media company updated the 14-person board on a variety of issues at hand, including efforts to turn around its embattled internet unit America Online, sources familiar with the situation said.

The board did not take a vote regarding Case’s chairmanship and discussions about his role were also not part of the agenda, a source close to the situation said.

Several industry sources had said Case would have enough support to stay on the board but added that the America Online co-founder and last remaining key architect of the $ 106.2 billion takeover of Time Warner would likely leave soon.

“There is no support within the company and not even at AOL (for Case), but there is also no compelling reason to get rid of him right now,” said a source familiar with the situation. “There are a lot of people counseling Steve to move on but he would prefer to wait until everything calms down. Even if he quits voluntarily right now, it looks like he was pushed out.”

Other industry insiders said he probably would not want to exit while the company’s America Online unit is still under investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission and justice department about its accounting practices.

Investors such as Turner, the company’s largest investor, has lost billions of dollars as AOL’s stock has fallen 70 per cent since the merger was completed in January. Turner and other board members with Time Warner roots have led the charge for Case’s departure.

The last board meeting culminated in the resignation of COO Robert Pittman—another architect of the deal whose premise is now questioned—only months after he was sent to revive America Online.

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