Arianna Huffington

IT’S THE MEDIA’S FAULT: At a talk today during TechCrunch Disrupt’s annual three-day conference, AOL chief executive officer Tim Armstrong and Verizon executive vice president Marni Walden addressed both the recent acquisition of Yahoo and the controversy over Arianna Huffington’s departure from the Huffington Post last month.

This story first appeared in the September 13, 2016 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Asked about Huffington leaving, Armstrong said he didn’t read “that Vanity Fair article” (a story out last week gives “the inside story” about why she left) and despite reports that he and Huffington clashed, he claimed that he is close, personal friends with Huffington and her family.

So, while he’s a key player in a company that is working aggressively to become a leading media firm, he blamed the media for the fuss.

“People in the media love the drama,” he said. “It’s not ‘show friends’ — it’s ‘show business,’ and we are going to aggressively pursue becoming the number-one news provider in the world.”

He tied that goal into the Yahoo acquisition, revealed in July, and contended the Yahoo news people are very talented. He also acknowledged that while it was too soon to have made any changes or decisions, he was sure that there would be some “job changes” among both AOL and Yahoo employees. (AOL owns TechCrunch.)

“I’ve been impressed with the whole Yahoo team, and there is enthusiasm on both sides internally,” Armstrong said.

Both he and Walden had billions on the brain. Walden said that Yahoo was part of Verizon’s plan to grow its audience as it worked to become a top consumer mobile video company. “We needed to get in the billions in terms of eyeballs, and Yahoo does that for us,” she said. She also said that she intends to focus on creating a business that generates billions of dollars.

Between AOL and Yahoo, Armstrong added, “There are synergies, and I am sure there will be some job changes, but this deal is not about that. It is about moving as fast as we can” to benefit everyone and to grow, particularly globally and among Millennials. “There is a lot of noise out there, but people are generally pretty excited where the future is,” he said.

Speaking of job changes, Yahoo’s chief executive officer Marissa Mayer, who has said that she planned to stay on throughout the transition, was not in attendance at the panel.

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