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Stealing Time: Steve Case, Jerry Levin, and the Collapse of AOL Time Warner Paperback – June 2, 2004

3.9 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In 1999 Wall Street was enamored with anything dot-com, and America Online was adding new subscribers in droves by giving away billions of free disks. Old-economy media giant Time Warner was trying to figure out how to make money in this new Internet thing. Its CEO, Jerry Levin, was eager to bring the company into the computer-friendly twenty-first century. Steve Case, CEO of AOL, knew the ride wouldn't last forever and shrewdly leveraged the inflated AOL stock to purchase the much larger Time Warner. Klein fascinatingly fills in the gaps of what is known of this, the largest merger in U.S. history. It turned out to be the signal of the end as this deal revealed to all that the Internet could not stand on its own. What was supposed to have been a synergy of new and old media turned out to be a total culture clash that led to disastrous results for the company and its stockholders. As a reporter for the Washington Post since 2000, Klein's investigative reporting of AOL Time Warner's business practices led to serious government investigations. Under pressure, several top AOL executives, including both Case and Levin, were forced to resign. David Siegfried
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Review

"A compelling parable of greed and power and hubris"
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (June 2, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074325984X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743259842
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #407,614 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Stephen A. Heins on July 3, 2003
Format: Hardcover
A review of Simon Schuster's new book, "Stealing Time: Steve Case, Jerry Levin, and the Collapse of AOL Time Warner," by Alec Klein

First, I must issue the following disclaimer: I am the "aging flower child" in Mr. Klein's new book, entitled "Stealing Time: Steve Case, Jerry Levin, and the Collapse of AOL Time Warner." That said, I think that my perspective as a spokesman for a small ISP from the Midwest allows me an overview unlike anyone else discussed in the book.

Overall, "Stealing Time" has established a standard for reporting on AOL and the AOL Time Warner merger that will be hard to top. If Mr. Klein's original reporting on AOL and the merger is the first draft of history, then his new book represents a first-rate second draft. No other reporter I know has had access to more sources and actors in the AOL Time Warner drama than Mr. Klein. His coverage of the early days of Steve Case and the company that would become AOL was particularly informative for the general readership.

Besides the use of impressionism, the narrative achieves a terseness and non-linear quality that does much to engage the reader. At each stage, one has to reflect on the individual anecdote and where it fits into the historical process of the current state of AOL Time Warner's evolution.

Another strength of the book is the author's ability to provide well-rounded caricatures of all the various players, large and small, who peopled this technological passion play. In particular, I was captivated by the chapter entitled "AOL Versus the World," and not just because I am part of it.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a terrific new book by a Washington Post reporter who followed AOL for the newspaper through its ups, its way ups, its downs and its way downs (now). The most appealing part of the book is that the subject is approached without malice. Klein could have taken a muckraking, expose the crooks attitude, but he did not. Perhaps this is because he spent so much time with "the boys at AOL" during the time he covered them for the Post.
The book appears to be very thoroughly documented and balanced. In the end, however, we are left with one, strong conclusion: AOL cooked the books to get the merger done with Time Warner and continued to cook them as long as possible to keep the numbers up after the merger. They did so, as has been documented previously, by booking phony ad sales when money flowed both ways and counting as revenue money that had not yet arrived.
This book is lively, a quick read and not harshly judgmental toward AOL, even while presenting strong indications that negative judgments would be justified. As at other high flying enterprises in the 1990s, AOL people often used company money like it was Iraqi dinars looted from the central bank. The "expensed" lavish trips and parties and rode their stock options to the stars. Almost every reference to Steve Case finds him in a different city, often other continents. Why work when you can travel in high style?
There is no doubt that a kind of stock and money madness enveloped AOL. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect, for some, will be the revelations about how much money was wasted both by AOL and its stock optioned employees on their own. While the record is shocking, I have a feeling that Klien barely scratched the surface in this regard.
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Format: Hardcover
I have a feeling that once the smoke clears, it will be the customers who pay the price for the AOL Time Warner debacle. I say this as a reader of this book and a consumer who has pulled my hair out trying to deal with both companies after the merger only to discover the right hand didn't know what the left was doing.
Klein's reporting brings clarity and insight to those of us who don't quite grasp the goings on at AOL Time Warner. It also provides us with a better understanding of the hostility many in the business world seem to have toward AOL. The internet officials seem to have had constant ethical lapses, often played it fast and loose with their competitiors, and bullied their supposed business partners.
Greed seems to be the overriding principle here as Steve Case and Jerry Levin, two very different individuals joined their companies together. The "old media" Time Warner was not prepared for new kid AOL, a company which seems to have operated since it's beginning with an illusion of greater financial success than it actually had. One wonders if a little investigation by Time Warner officials into AOL's practices could have avoided the disaster.
Klein successfully pieces together how in the end, Case and Levin are undone by their own arrogance and people such as Ted Turner and Dick Parsons, colleagues they grossly underestimated.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A very easy read about a large event in financial history. This book is engaging enough to appeal to veterans of the financial industry but written comprehensively enough to appeal to those not as familiar. It is not fraught with jargon nor does it assume prior knowledge. The author lays out the context of the tech bubble prior to delving into this particular merger and subsequent blow-up. If you do not know the story of AOL Time-Warner, it is fascinating and perfectly laid out in this book.Even if you do, this book offers a great look into the characters involved, specific issues that arose, and provides a seamless transition from start to finish. I highly recommend this.
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