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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, June 8, 2001

AOL Time Warner's Case eager to see jump-start for state

By John Duchemin
Advertiser Staff Writer

Steve Case, chairman of the board of AOL Time Warner and a Punahou alumnus, reads from school newspapers kept from his days at the school. Case spoke at Punahou last night.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

In a rare Honolulu public appearance, AOL Time Warner Inc. chairman Stephen Case yesterday reminisced with a packed crowd at Punahou School's Dillingham Theater, telling them that an emotional bond with Hawai'i has led him to invest millions of dollars in the school and other Hawai'i businesses and nonprofit organizations.

Case, whose multimillion-dollar donation is responsible for Punahou's plans to build a new middle school, said he also has financed a 20-home construction project in Hawai'i for nonprofit Habitat for Humanity, which builds houses for low-income residents.

And in his first public comment on his purchases of controlling interest in two struggling Neighbor Island companies, Case said the purchases were based more on a desire to help Hawai'i than on financial motives. Since 1999, Case has gained control of Kaua'i's Grove Farms and Maui property, retail and agriculture company Maui Land & Pineapple.

"The investments I made on Kaua'i and Maui were not exactly motivated by crisp financial analysis," said Case, a 1976 Punahou graduate who was in Honolulu to celebrate his 25-year reunion. "I was motivated partly by the sense that the state needs a jump-start. There's only so much that we can do, but when we bought those properties, it attracted a lot of attention.

"I do hope that in the long run they'll be decent investments, but I also hope they stimulate others to possibly invest here. I think Hawai'i deserves that kind of a boost."

Honolulu-born Case is chairman of AOL Time Warner, the $40 billion media conglomerate created when America Online merged with Time Warner in January. Case was the keynote speaker yesterday for the school's alumni weekend kickoff event.

In a short speech to a crowd of about 500 Punahou alumni and relatives, Case talked about technology's evolution in a time of "convergence," in which traditional "standalone" machines like telephones, TVs, stereos and personal computers are starting to share functions.

"Things that we have taken for granted are blurring together," he said. "This creates some confusion, but also enormous opportunities that will have a huge impact on peoples' lives. These will be very exciting times. Governments and leaders will have to think out of the box, to figure out how they can bring themselves into this new world."

Case also called for more corporate compassion, and for companies to figure out how to "do right and do well" at the same time.

He praised Punahou for advancing this message with its newly established Center for Public Service.

"I think this is a magnificent step forward for Punahou, that will lift expectations and raise the bar — the idea that it's not enough to educate kids and get them into good schools, but teaching that they also have to make a difference."

Case, 42, attended Punahou from kindergarten through high school, and worked on the school newspaper. He now lives in Virginia.

In addition to the Punahou middle school and Habitat for Humanity donations, Case has also started two computing centers for underprivileged youths on O'ahu, part of a national Case campaign called PowerUP.