Michael Arrington, the founding editor of TechCrunch, has been making plenty of noise since being relieved of his duties by Arianna Huffington last week. Her reason for ousting Arrington was his new $20 million venture capitol fund, brazenly called CrunchFund, which invests in some of the same companies TechCrunch covers. AOL, who bought TechCrunch from Arrington last year, has invested approximately $10 million into the new fund.
Can you say conflict of interest? Huffington could, and promptly canned Arrington.
Arrington is trying to recast himself as a noble journalist, fighting for editorial control of his website. In a melodramatic TechCrunch blog post yesterday, demanding AOL failed to restore his editorial independence or sell the site back to him.
Media critics seem to be collectively rolling their eyes. The Business Insider writes: “This is equivalent to an employee who has been fired demanding that, if the division he just got fired from is not immediately stripped from his former boss’s control and placed back under his control, he’ll quit.” David Carr of the New York Times declares TechCrunch and AOL’s association with CrunchFund as “almost comically over the line.”
VentureBeat has a theory about Arrington’s theatrics. They posit that he has financial motive to remain at TechCrunch:
Ask yourself how much more value Arrington has as the head of CrunchFund (his new $20 million venture fund) if he manages to retain an editorial role within TechCrunch.
He knows it’s a lot. In fact, he values that relationship so much that he’s willing to buy TechCrunch back from AOL so that he can continue running and contributing to the publication while investing in whatever startups he pleases.
It should be noted that Huffington magnanimously invited Arrington to contribute to AOL as an unpaid blogger.