AOL Staffer fired during Conference Call

AOL Staffer fired during Conference CallAccording to reports, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong apparently fired an employee who tried to take his photo during a morning meeting to outline drastic cutbacks at his struggling Patch local-news network. During a conference call with Patch editors, Armstrong said he would either pull the plug or find partners for 400 of the division’s 900 Web sites as AOL reasserts its authority over the money losing “hyper local” venture.

The call can be heard online through Soundcloud. Several minutes into the call, an employee who has been identified as the company’s Creative Director Abel Lenz, tried to snap a photo of Armstrong, who was in the New York office.

According to TechCrunch, a Web site owned by AOL, Armstrong said, “Abel, put that camera down. You’re fired.”

Then a few minutes later, Armstrong touched on the subject of the termination of Lenz and said, “The reason I fired Abel is I don’t want anyone taking pictures of this meeting.” According to reports, he later likened it to a sports team locker room and said he couldn’t allow people to give the “game plan away” according to Business Insider’s account of the call.

Lenz could not be reached for comment, according to various media outlets. On LinkedIn he is still listed as the creative director for Patch, but calls to the AOL switchboard show no employee listed by that name. Armstrong also had harsh words for the division president, Steve Kalin, whom he had apparently just fired as well.

Armstrong was the biggest backer of Patch at the time of its founding in 2007. The former top Google executive sold it to AOL for $7 million in 2009, shortly after he became CEO of AOL. He considered it key in his efforts to reinvent AOL after a decade of steady decline. In some towns, Patch sites have become quite popular as go-to destinations for political, youth sports, and local news.

Some estimates indicate that AOL has spent more than $300 million on Patch since 2009, and the outfit has yet to turn a profit. In some towns, Patch has a small staff and infrequent updates that leave the sites seldom visited and like cyber ghost towns.

Armstrong has conceded it would be difficult for at least a third of the sites to turn a profit. He said the company will either close those sites or seek print media partners for 300 to 400 of the sites.

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About the author

Justin focuses on tech and internet news.