Next month, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong will for the second time this year, report AOL’s earnings to the public.
We don’t know the numbers Tim and his CFO, Artie Minson, will report.
But put it this way: the optimistic outlook is that AOL won’t completely blow it like it did after the first quarter, when the newly public company undercut Wall Street’s already very low expectations. The pessimists, citing a disorganized sales force, worry that AOL will disappoint again.
A week before this call, however, we can make one prediction about it you can bank on: Tim will come off positive and upbeat about AOL’s chances going forward during the call.
Since taking over the top spot at the once-powerful, now moribund Internet company in spring 2009, such a positive attitude has been Tim’s most powerful tool.
But what’s Tim like behind closed doors? What are some of his thoughts and worries about the company?
Here’s what we’ve learned from sources who’ve had recent conversations with AOL’s top executive:
- One source tells us Tim is disheartened, and that he secretly wishes he had gotten the Yahoo job Carol Bartz got shortly before he ended up at AOL.
- This source says Tim views Yahoo as a company that needs a turnaround as badly as AOL, but does not have the albatross hanging around AOL’s neck: a once huge subscription business that established a market cap for AOL that the media business Tim wants to build cannot ever hope to recreate.
- Another source says Tim’s biggest disappointment has been the inability to sell AOL’s non-media assets for enough cash to turn around and buy world-famous media brands from suffering old media conglomerates like Condé Nast, Hearst, or even AOL’s old corporate sibling, Time Inc.
- Tim wanted one of these beloved old media brands because he believes the Internet is like cable TV, where people will go to 250 channels – and that’s it.
- Tim’s biggest fear: That he manages to turn AOL into an awesome media business, but because he doesn’t recoup the access revenues, the turnaround gets called a failure.
- Tim’s next big challenge is that so far he’s brought in people he could trust and the jury is out on them. The thought: The people you can trust may or may not also be the most talented people you could find to do the job. Is Tim’s chief-of-staff from Google, Maureen Sullivan, really the best marketing person he can find? Is Jon Brod, the guy Tim started Patch.com with, really the best person to run MapQuest?
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