Armstrong re-emerges as key figure after Yahoo deal
SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) – With the Yahoo-Verizon deal Monday, AOL chief Tim Armstrong has re-emerged as a figure who may be key in the effort to shape a new internet strategy.
Armstrong, who remained head of AOL when it was acquired last year by Verizon, is now set to inherit another faded internet star.
In the statement announcing the $4.8 billion acquisition of Yahoo’s core internet assets, Verizon said the online operations would be “integrated with AOL.”
Armstrong said in the statement, “Our mission at AOL is to build brands people love, and we will continue to invest in and grow them.”
The tall, chisled-featured 44-year-old has steered AOL since 2009 — first when it was part of the Time Warner conglomerate, then as an independent company, and since last year under Verizon.
Armstrong comes from a marketing background, studying economics and sociology at Connecticut College and co-founding a newspaper in Boston.
Yahoo’s chief executive Marissa Mayer was an engineer, with a master’s degree in computer science from Stanford.
But they have crossed paths before. Both were early employees at Google.
He joined Google in 2000, a year after Mayer, and helped develop the AdSense platform that has been hugely lucrative for the search giant.
Armstrong is considered one of the first executives to see a future for “programmatic” online advertising, which uses software and algorithms to learn about users and deliver relevant marketing messages.
At AOL, Armstrong had the task of trying to revive a company that had been the leading online service provider but was sinking fast.
His “Project Everest” strategy reorganized AOL and helped focus on digital media, investing in the Huffington Post and other news sites, while strengthening its ad-tech services.
After Verizon bought AOL for $4.4 billion, the telecom giant kept Armstrong as the head of a semi-autonomous unit.
While he has been praised for his business and marketing acumen, there have also been some ruffled feathers.
In 2013, Armstrong was holding a meeting of AOL’s Patch hyperlocal news operations when he became unnerved by an employee using a camera. His words caught on tape — “Abel, you’re fired. Out” — sent shock waves through the company and were circulated online.
He was also criticized for making comments about “distressed babies” who raised healthcare costs for the company — even though executives were not supposed to have private details about employees’ medical matters.