Give Me Back My Baby: Michael Arrington Trying to Buy Back TechCrunch From AOL — But Would AOL Sell It?
Here’s another interesting wrinkle to the ongoing saga of AOL, TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington and his nascent venture firm, CrunchFund.
Since the controversy erupted last week, Arrington has reached out to AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, as well as others in Silicon Valley, about buying back his popular tech news site.
Sources said Arrington needs funding to do so — irony alert! — and told them over the weekend that he planned to use his blogging bully pulpit to force AOL into giving up the site it bought for more than $25 million almost exactly a year ago.
But sources said — at this point — AOL is not inclined to sell the site, which has prompted Arrington to pen a blog post on TechCrunch, not-meant-as-a-joke-titled “Editorial Independence,” suggesting they do so.
We’ve proposed two options to Aol.
1. Reaffirmation of the editorial independence promised at the time of acquisition. Given the current circumstances, that means autonomy from Huffington Post, unfettered editorial independence and a blanket right to editorial self determination. To put it simply, TechCrunch would stay with Aol but would be independent of the Huffington Post.
2. Sell TechCrunch back to the original shareholders.
Arrington used an image of the Spartans from, I think, the movie “300,” on the post. Memo to Mike: All the Spartans died in the end, however valiant. It goes without saying — this situation is not valiant and you are definitely not King Leonidas.
“It is at a stalemate, so this is the result,” said one person with knowledge of the pugnacious effort by Arrington to take back his baby.
Which, of course, he sold in the first place.
AOL has stated it will not allow Arrington to remain its editor or have “influence on coverage” while also doing a venture fund.
Thus, some of Arrington’s staffers, such as M.G. Siegler, have already been plowing the ground ahead of Arrington’s post.
Siegler, for example, penned a weepy diatribe about how unfair it all is and how different the site operates from slow-footed meanies at big media organizations such as the New York Times. The Times strafed Arrington in a David Carr column yesterday.
Wrote Siegler, in what can only be described as soap-opera fantastic: “TechCrunch is on the precipice. As soon as tomorrow, Mike may be thrown out of the company he founded. Or he may not. No one knows.”
Tune in tomorrow to see if AOL’s content chief and Arrington boss Arianna Huffington will use that gun in her pocket. Or will she use the razor-chiseled cheekbones of Armstrong to slice her new nemesis?
(Alls I can say to add to what I have already said, at this point: Good lord. But, wait, isn’t there a TechCrunch Disrupt conference next week to hawk and make it all about Arrington and not the entrepreneurs? This explains everything!)
While Siegler is trying to make it all sound as if it is so very unfair, since the site is presumably so very special, AllThingsD operates in a similar quick-edit way to TechCrunch — where I will underscore there are some terrific journalists.
But — because it is simply flat-out wrong on every possible scale — neither Walt Mossberg nor I would ever consider being editors of the site while also running a venture fund.
(In fact, it is now a standing rule at ATD that, if we ever did such an unthinkable thing — which of course we never would — our writers tell us we stink rather than praise us.)