A year after AOL acquired The Huffington Post for $350 million, sources say AOL CEO Tim Armstrong is getting frustrated with working with Arianna Huffington, who became President at AOL after the deal. So is Arianna on her way out? Is Tim?
A source close to AOL and its chief concedes that Armstrong and others at the top of AOL sometimes find Huffington a “headache” to deal with, due mainly to her lack of “operating experience.”
But, says this source, Armstrong believes that Huffington is a “Michael Jordan-level” “star” who, as president of AOL’s media group, is a far superior alternative to “a suit who has typical digital media experience.”
“The value of having her is huge from a recruiting standpoint. And she’s an earned media machine. [She brings] incredible value in being a leader [with] public credibility,” says this source.
The most specific complaints we’ve heard about Huffington from sources close to AOL are that she requires constant care and feeding from her underlings and colleagues and that she is an “empire-builder.” For example, she forced AOL to change its media group’s name from AOL Media to The Huffington Post Media Group.
It is unclear if Armstrong harbors these exact resentments. We’ve only heard from people who know him that he has begun to privately complain about working with her.
People complain privately about their coworkers all the time, of course. Sometimes people even complain about people who they like and value and hope to continue working with!
Our bet is that Huffington is not going anywhere any time soon. Huffington is a global media star, one who causes Madison Avenue ad-buyers to swoon over AOL inventory, has a clear vision for how content can and should be made for the Internet, and the will to execute this vision.
What’s more likely than an exit, we think, is a slow realignment of her responsibilities. Right now, Huffington is a a “president” in charge of a large business group with line operating responsibilities. This is a role Huffington did not have at The Huffington Post, where she was merely the founder and editor. As time goes on, we expect that Huffington’s job – if not her title – to change to “visionary leader.”
She will be someone who leads AOL’s thousands of editorial workers by example…and with calls and emails from her three BlackBerries, seven days a week.
AOL declined to comment on this post.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.