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Case warms up for action

New York, Oct. 2 (Reuters): AOL Time Warner chairman Steve Case plans to take a more active role in the company’s operations, he said in his first major presentation to investors since a company board meeting at which many investors expected him to be ousted.

Some AOL Time Warner board members and investors have called for Case’s head, as the company’s shares have declined around 75 per cent since the two companies merged in January 2001. In recent months, shares have slid against the backdrop of government probes of its accounting and slowing growth of its America Online Internet unit.

“I plan to be more active now,” Case told attendees of the Goldman Sachs Communicopia investor conference. “As chairman, my role is to run the board, partner with Dick Parsons (AOL Time Warner’s chief executive officer) and roll up my sleeves and be helpful. And that’s what I plan to do.”

Ted Turner, the company’s vice chairman and the company’s largest individual shareholder, has reportedly been one of Case’s harshest critics. Turner once ran cable channels CNN, TBS and others before selling them to Time Warner in 1995, but after the AOL Time Warner merger in 2001, Turner’s role was dramatically reduced by then-CEO Gerald Levin.

“Ted is an interesting and smart man,” Case said. “I hope to have a strong relationship with him for many years to come.”

Former AOL Time Warner chief executive Gerald Levin and chief operating officer Robert Pittman — key architects of AOL’s acquisition of Time Warner — departed under pressure earlier this year, leaving Case as the last key figure involved with the deal.

Earlier this year, the company revamped its top ranks, installing Dick Parsons as chief executive and Time Inc’s Don Logan and HBO’s Jeff Bewkes as Parsons’ top deputies.

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