Would AOL unload Huffington Post?

The media company has reportedly gotten overtures for its popular site, which it says is not for sale.

By Jonathan Berr Nov 16, 2012 5:38PM
Image: Man with laptop (Image Source/SuperStock)AOL (AOL) has received unsolicited buyout overtures for the Huffington Post, the hugely popular website it acquired for $315 million in 2011, and would unload the property at the right price, according to an executive quoted in paidContent,

Jimmy Maymann, a senior vice president at Huffington Post Media Group, made it clear that AOL is not shopping the site around but added: "I cannot stand here and say, some day, 'AOL will not sell it if the price is high enough or there is a better owner.' But, right now, AOL is a good owner for Huffington Post and we'll keep it."

Maymann's comments raise some interesting issues, such as who are these mysterious suitors? How much were they prepared to offer for HuffPo? Were these offers serious enough to be taken to the board?  

I have no idea what the answers to these questions may be. The site's founder, Arianna Huffington, declined requests for comment. AOL spokeswoman Jolie Hunt didn't immediately respond to an email.

A potential AOL sale of Huffington Post has been raised before. Arianna Huffington told Business Insider in May that private equity firms had approached AOL about buying her site but that the talks went nowhere. Nonetheless, I am sure AOL's PR department wasn't pleased with Maymann's remarks because they remind the public and the company's investors that the marriage between Arianna Huffington's media empire and the New York company hasn't always been smooth. 

When the acquisition was first announced, Huffington was given oversight over all of AOL's properties, a move that resulted in clashes with the management of Patch, the company's group of hyper-local sites, and TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington, who later quit following a spat with Huffington. Arrington has recently begun writing again for the tech news site, however. As part of the restructuring, Arianna Huffington was given more control over the Huffington Post going forward.

What makes the timing of Maymann's comments especially strange is that they are coming as AOL's fortunes are improving. Shares of the Internet publisher, which had at one time been synonymous with technological obsolescence, have surged more than 130% this year.  The company's recent better-than-expected results, prompted CEO Tim Armstrong to crow about the company's "best relative revenue performance in seven years." 

Huffington Post, which is expanding overseas, deserves credit for AOL's success, which makes it hard to imagine the two ever splitting up but there are some people who apparently think that a divorce is at least theoretically possible. The site, which attracted 10 million users on election day, would attract a plethora of buyers if AOL decided to sell.

--Jonathan Berr is a former AOL contract writer. He does not own shares of the listed stocks  Follow him on Twitter @jdberr


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1Comment
Nov 17, 2012 9:22PM
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I like the Huffinton post. I hope AOL keeps it.
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