Arianna Huffington is making sure that TechCrunch founder and former editor Michael Arrington receives a lot more than a slap on the wrist for refusing to back down from a fight with parent company AOL.
The conflict began last week when Arrington announced that he was launching his $20 million venture capital fund called the CrunchFund—including an $8 million commitment from AOL, which acquired TechCrunch last year.
Soon after, a company spokesperson—following orders from Huffington, according to Fortune’s Dan Primack—said that Arrington had been fired. Another spokesperson clarified that Arrington would not be leaving AOL, but he would “no longer have editorial control or decision making” powers at TechCrunch.
Arrington took to his blog to address the situation and presented AOL with an ultimatum: either they assert TechCrunch’s editorial independence—and autonomy from the Huffington Post—or sell the site back to its original owners. “If Aol cannot accept either of these options, and no other creative solution can be found, I cannot be a part of TechCrunch going forward,” he wrote.
But AOL chose neither. Company executives, supposedly following Huffington’s lead, decided to terminate Arrington, Primack reported last night—although it’s unclear how AOL will go about the deed. What’s also unclear is what will happen to the CrunchFund, which AOL “technically could default on, but that would lead to all sorts of other problems,” wrote Primack. He also noted, “While I'm led to believe this decision is final, AOL has been so scattershot during this past week that any sort of reversal would not shock me.”
It’s a messy situation, but a win for Huffington, who “now appears to be more influential at AOL than the company's CEO (both of them were aware of CrunchFund, but [CEO Tim Armstrong] was far more involved in its formation),” wrote Primack.