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Rumors that Steve Case is on his way out of

AOL Time Warner


intensified Monday.

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Hedge fund manager Doug Kass reported on


late this afternoon that Case, the 43-year-old chairman of the New York media conglomerate, is "very close to leaving the company," perhaps as soon as Friday. Citing sources, Kass wrote that "apparently there is a strong attempt by members of AOL Time Warner's senior management to effect this change by the company's next board meeting." AOL's board is due to meet Thursday. Kass is long AOL stock.

Questions about Case's plans and his longevity have been circulating in the market for the better part of a year now. AOL Time Warner was formed in January 2001 when Case's AOL merged with Time Warner, then led by Gerald Levin. But as the company posted a series of financial shortfalls and its stock fell sharply, investors started questioning management's vision, leading to the departure first of Levin and then later of AOL veteran Bob Pittman. The shakeup resulted in Time Warner vets led by Dick Parson taking control of the company from the AOL crowd, as embodied by Case and Pittman.

Even so, the company has continually rejected the notion that Case is leaving. Tricia Primrose, a spokeswoman for the company, reiterated that position Monday evening. "There is no basis for this rumor," she said.