Verizon Will Pay $4 Billion For AOL, But The Management Stylings Of Tim Armstrong Are Free

Hope Verizon likes to keep things crazy in the C Suites.
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Selling your media company for $4.4 billion makes for a nice Tuesday, but AOL CEO Tim Armstrong should be extra excited today because Tim Armstrong still gets to do something that he is sublimely terrifying at: being the boss of people.

Armstrong has been AOL's CEO since 2009, and his more than half-a-decade in charge has been full of fun little moments that would make any management professor cringe and clench in horror.

For instance, months after taking the reins at AOL, Armstrong paid $7 million in cash for a hyperlocal news startup called Patch. That deal would not have been of any major interest had Patch not been founded by Armstrong and gone on to become a money-leeching parasite to the host body of AOL.

However Tim isn't the kind of guy to let his old friends ruin his rep with his new friends, so he moved quickly (four years later) and announced in a town hall-type meeting that he would be reducing Patch's staff by a third from 900 to 600. And he took no time getting the old pink slip machine fired up.

Heating up, Armstrong talked about how "you can blame me" for everything that has gone wrong at Patch, and "I don't care what the press says." He commanded everyone in the room to fully commit themselves to the company.
Then something strange happened.
Armstrong interrupted himself to say, "Abel, put that camera down right now."
Then, without taking a breath, he said, "Abel, you're fired."
For five seconds, the room went silent.
Finally, Armstrong started speaking again. He said: "If you guys think that AOL has not been committed to Patch, and won't stay committed to Patch, you're wrong."

That's how Tim Armstrong fires people: impulsive, randomly cruel and counterintuitive to his larger goal of team-building.

Is it us or do Tim Armstrong meetings seem to be a lot like the banquet scene in "The Untouchables?"

Speaking of employee morale, Tim made himself a feminist hero in 2014 for going on CNBC, taking a question about Obamacare and saying this:

"We had two AOL-ers that had distressed babies that were born that we paid a million dollars each to make sure those babies were OK in general. And those are the things that add up into our benefits cost. So when we had the final decision about what benefits to cut because of the increased healthcare costs, we made the decision, and I made the decision, to basically change the 401(k) plan."

Haphazardly firing people in front of your entire company and singling out two mothers that work for you by discussing how much it cost to keep their newborns alive? Verizon might have paid $4.4 billion to boost its mobile ad business, but they got a mercurial and alienating executive for free.

"Why Settle?" indeed.

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