AOL's Tim Armstrong fires exec on conference call
1,000 people were listening when he booted a top Patch employee, prompting some observers to deeply question his management style.
Updated 4:30 p.m. ET
Unhappy companies apparently each have their own ways of being unhappy, to rephrase Tolstoy. Now, thanks to AOL (AOL) chief executive Tim Armstrong, the corporate world has a new path to finding emotional ground zero.
Armstrong reportedly fired an executive on a conference call Friday, just three minutes after the 9 a.m. meeting had started and with about 1,000 people listening in. The employee was creative director Abel Lenz of AOL's hyper-local news site network Patch, who offended Armstrong by snapping his photo in the New York meeting room where the CEO was holding the call, media reporter Jim Romenesko reports."Abel, put that camera down. You're fired. Out," Armstrong said, according to audio from the report.
After a brief pause, Armstrong continued the call as normal, although he explained his actions about five minutes later. "The reason I fired Abel before was I don't want anyone taking pictures of this meeting," he said.
Ironically, the conference call was organized to announce layoffs and the closings of sites in AOL's Patch local news service. Armstrong (pictured) also lowered the boom on about 400 of Patch's 1,000 sites, with affected locations either shuttered or partnered with other media companies. Patch operates news sites for towns such as Hoboken, N.J., and Woburn, Mass.
The impromptu action has some observers questioning Armstrong's management techniques.
"The meeting was designed to rally the troops," CNBC's Andrew Ross Sorkin says in the video above. "I'm not sure that happened."
AOL's Patch was never terribly well thought out, as InvestorPlace noted last week. The company rolled out hundreds of hyper-local news sites without understanding how to make money from the product.
With headlines like "Strength training for seniors! Registration OPEN!" and "Winner Named in Town's 'Battle of the Bottles,'" many of Patch's stories aren't exactly gripping reads.
But some are pointing to Armstrong's leadership -- and his decision to humiliate an employee by firing him publicly -- as a bigger issue facing the one-time highflying Internet company.
"When a struggling organization has as many fundamental problems as AOL does, a CEO who behaves like this doesn't make things better," one commenter on ValleyWag wrote. "If there was any justice the board would conference people in on its next meeting, where the first order of business would be canning Armstrong."
Update: There may be more to the firing than meets the eye. Business Insider, citing information from a source, reports that Armstrong was unhappy with a redesign of the Patch service that Lenz helped spearhead. "Maybe Armstrong was so quick to fire Lenz over such a small offense because he was already planning on letting him go because he didn't like his work?" asked Nicholas Carlson. "That would certainly make Armstrong's behavior easier to explain, if not excusable."
A Boss who does that is a boss that has a power trip going on and has no reason to be a boss to start with. I say your fired now and give the guy you fired your job now. I bet that would something to watch.Just because you are a boss does not give you the power to treat other's so bad. Karma back to you.
Given AOL's status, it's obvious Armstrong is the one who needs to go.
He might as well pulled out a gun and shot himself in the foot after that....
Obviously no social skills or managerial experience... How he got the job I dunno.....
I was fired along with 22 of my colleagues in 2001 from Johns Manville(Bershire Hathaway). Talk about a shock. Told us the conference call was about earnings, yeah right. This happened on December 22nd, what a great Christmas that year. They had a fire after that at one of their plants in Cleburne Texas. I wasn't anywhere near Texas. They have been a non factor after that. Some of these guys were with the company 25+ years. But to do it on a conference call? No Class.
Ahhh. AOL. That darling of the dial up internet service providers.
Does anyone still use dial up?
Does anyone still have a phone line?
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