BREAKING: AOL Acquires The Huffington Post

In what has to go down as one of the best kept secrets in recent media deal making history, AOL’s Tim Armstrong and The Huffington Post‘s Arianna Huffington today completed an arrangement that will see his old guard Internet outfit acquire her new guard Internet venture for a cool $315 million. Huffington will become president and editor-in-chief of newly formed The Huffington Post Media Group, which will combine all of The Huffington Post and AOL’s diverse content (Engadget, TechCrunch, Moviefone, PopEater, etc.)

Via a 12:01 a.m. ET February 7th post on her site, Huffington confirms that it all went down in Dallas in the shadow of the epic contest between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers. The stunning acquisition deal culminates fast-track negotiations that were sparked last November and picked up again in earnest at the turn of the new year:

There were many more meetings, back-and-forth emails, and phone calls about what our merger would mean for the two companies. Things moved very quickly. A term sheet was produced, due diligence began, and on Super Bowl Sunday the deal was signed. In fact, it was actually was signed at the Super Bowl, where Tim was hosting a group of wounded vets from the Screamin’ Eagles. It was my first Super Bowl – an incredibly exciting backdrop that mirrored my excitement about the merger and the future ahead.

The paradigm-shifting partnership instantly raises the legitimacy of AOL’s broadband content aspirations, radically alters the playing field for something like Armstrong’s nascent network of Patch community news websites and is certain to increase the pressure on The Huffington Post to pay more of its contributors.

[To read the press release, click here; to watch a Dallas video interview given by Armstrong and Huffington to All Things Digital, click here.]