New Info Hints At The Real Reason AOL CEO Tim Armstrong Fired An Executive In Front Of 1,000 Coworkers

Abel lenz
Abel Lenz Creative Director at AOL LinkedIn

We have some new information that may explain why one of the most bizarre sequences in AOL history happened.

Early on Saturday (AEST), AOL CEO Tim Armstrong fired Abel Lenz, the creative director of AOL’s local news division Patch, during a conference call with about 1,000 coworkers on the line.

An audio recording of the conference call hit the Web over the weekend.

It’s pretty nuts.

The point of the call was for Armstrong to rally the employees of Patch — the day after Armstrong told Wall Street analysts he planned massive cost cuts for the division.

About two minutes into a speech addressed to everyone on the call, Armstrong pauses to address someone in the room.

He says, “Abel, put that camera down, now.”

Then, without taking a breath, Armstrong says, “Abel, you’re fired. Out.”

If you haven’t heard it yet, go listen right now.

One of the reasons the recording is so odd is that Armstrong hardly seems to give Lenz a chance to put down the camera before firing him.

Also: We’re told that Lenz, based in New York, would always take pictures of big speakers during conference calls, and later post the images on Patch’s internal Web site, so the 1,000 or so remote workers could see them.

He wasn’t doing anything unusual at the time.

It all makes you wonder: Did Armstrong have something else against Lenz?

Was there another reason he was so quick to fire him?

Today, we learned some new information that suggests the answer to that question is “yes.”

Apparently, after firing Lenz, Armstrong went on to “[crap] all over” Lenz’s biggest project for the company, Patch 2.0.

Says a source:

The Patch 2.0 redesign was spearheaded by Abel Lenz, at least at the beginning. He was brought into Patch from another area of AOL in the first half of 2012 when it became clear that the existing Patch web and mobile design talent was not up to the task. As to whether Abel was still leading that team, I don’t know.

But, according to people who were on the call, Armstrong called out Patch 2.0 as being awful (paraphrase, not a direct quote). … That’s why I thought it was odd that, of all the people he called out and fired on the call, it was the guy who was responsible for building and launching Patch 2.0, an update that Armstrong clearly was not happy with.

Maybe Armstrong was so quick to fire Lenz over such a small offence because he was already planning on letting him go because he didn’t like his work?

That would certainly make Armstrong’s behaviour easier to explain, if not excusable.

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