The new AOL and Tim Armstrong held their coming out party for Wall Street in New York yesterday, in a vast roadshow luncheon at the St. Regis.
What did Wall Street think?
Some observations from attendees:
- “I was prepared to hate this guy Armstrong–just another dick from Google. But he came across real well.”
- “Tim Armstrong’s an impressive guy. The CFO’s an impressive guy.”
- They’re all new. Of the top 6 guys it seems like only 1-2 are from AOL.”
- “Opening statement: Very confident this will eventually be a growth business. But realistic. Admitted that the maths is daunting. The two highest margin businesses, access and search, are shrinking. He said the new search deal [in 2010] ‘won’t look like the last one.’ That’s spin for saying the new search deal will probably be worth about $500 million a year instead of the current $680 million.”
- “Two-thirds of the people in the room were value guys hoping they’d say they’re going to run off the access business for cash. They’re obviously not going to do that.” [TRANSLATION: Many of the investors in the room just want AOL to admit it’s doomed and collect as much cash as possible before going bust.]
- “They were obviously not interested in getting people excited about the AOL story. If they’d wanted to get people excited about buying the stock, they could have told a much more exciting story. They were VERY low key. They’re just setting a low bar so they can get their options struck at a really low price.” [MORE CHARITABLY: They understand the benefits of underpromising and overdelivering].
- “He talked a lot about structured data. That flew right over my head. What the hell’s structured data? Is that that Patch thing?”
- “They said the turnaround will take 2-4 years. He said he don’t expect the turnaround to take one year. But he also said ‘We didn’t come here for 5 years.'”
- “Armstrong said the Wall Street Journal got the whole content strategy story wrong. It’s not ‘Robo-content.’ It’s a system that enables human editors and freelancers.”
- “He said when he got there they had 24 ad serving systems and 17 content systems… The main message: Baboons built all this crap. But now the humans have arrived.”
That’s about as good a reaction as one could hope for. Well done, Tim!