Pineapples Raking in Big Bucks for Mr. AOL

By: Kim Eisler

After several years off the Forbes list of billionaires, AOL founder Steve Case has returned—buoyed by the more than 20-percent increase of Time Warner’s stock price from last year to this February, when the list was compiled. Case no longer chairs the company but, according to SEC filings, still owns 15 million shares.

Since the Forbes list came out on March 8, Case’s wealth has ballooned further, thanks to his 3,472,000 shares in Maui Land & Pineapple Company, a 98-year-old outfit that is increasingly more involved with luxury development than with the growing of pineapples, although it remains Hawaii’s largest pineapple producer.

In late March, Maui Land & Pineapple announced the purchase of a large stake in the Kapalua Ritz-Carlton, a deal that lifted the stock price nearly 25 percent and made Case, the company’s single largest stockholder, $17 million in just three weeks this spring.

Case has also amassed a substantial stake, reportedly 2.5 million shares, in Gaiam, a Colorado-based purveyor of “wellness” products with a Buddhist flavor. That stock also is doing well.

Analysts say Case may need every dollar he can make. Case has poured several hundred million into Revolution LLC, his privately held company that hopes to attract subscribers for Web-related health services. Case has told private investors it will do for online health services what AOL did for the Internet.

Revolution launched an early version of its site in January but isn’t starting its major push until later this year.