We’ve been calling and emailing our sources at Google, AOL, and the ad agencies to gauge the industry’s reaction to news that Google US sales boss Tim Armstrong would replace Randy Falco as AOL CEO.
Most of our sources asked to remain anonymous because they had not been authorised to speak on the record.
Here’s what we heard:
- Despite calls for Randy and Ron’s job here and elsewhere, AOL executives were shocked to hear CEO Randy Falco and COO Ron Grant got the boot. Some were sad. “They did a lot of the hard work” that Armstrong is going to benefit from, one told us.
- That being said, AOLers are generally thrilled someone with Tim Armstrong’s career options would opt for their company.
- They’re amazed he’d leave Google so soon after the company’s big options re-pricing.
- We’ve heard Google execs were just as shocked to hear of Tim’s defection. Though in the clarity of hindsight, people acknowledge that Tim’s been on the verge of leaving before.
- Some wonder if being in the running for the Yahoo job didn’t soften him to the idea of leaving Google.
- Not to say he isn’t a quick decision maker, “good at people,” a good listener and responsible for hiring everyone in Google’s US sales force, but Tim really was just a sales guy at Google.
- He never oversaw product managers or engineers, for example.
- He only oversaw about a thousand or so other employees (a huge ad sales force). AOL is much larger.
- Tim’s business only accounted for about 25% of Google’s revenues. Most (about 50%) of Google’s sales revenues come from automated Web-based sales — called OSO at Google — and the rest are from Europe and Asia.
- Sentiment inside Google is that it’s heading into a new period where growth is slowing and there’s less need for a charismatic evangelist like Tim.
- Razorfish VP Sarah Baehr told us: I’d say it is a great move by AOL to bring in a recognised leader in the digital space.
- But that isn’t the consensus. Others at the agencies say that “this move will test Armstrong’s ability. Was he skilled or just lucky at Google?”
- VC and former Fox Interactive boss Ross Levinsohn (the guy who bought MySpace) loves Tim:
“He’s a world class executive who’s done a fantastic job at Google. I negotiated our deal with him, and he’s fair, smart, strategic, honest and hard working. It’s a big get for AOL and clearly shows a renewed commitment to the company, or a desire to spin it out with a strong, well respected leader.”
- Tim’s plan to push Time Warner to sell or spin off AOL isn’t really Tim’s plan. We hear that’s the expectation at AOL.
- Safe: Greg Coleman. Not as safe: Ted Cahall and Randy and Ron’s people in corporate communications.
- In one sense, this all came together very quickly. In another, it was years in the making. Tim led Google’s effort to sell ads against AOL search. He knows the company cold, how to find “the low-hanging fruit.”
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