Morning Media Newsfeed: AOL Sells Patch | Yahoo! COO Out | News Corp. Ices Pensions

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AOL Unloads Controlling Interest in Patch (Capital New York)
AOL all but unloaded its embattled local news network Patch to investment firm Hale Global on Wednesday. Patch will act as a new limited liability company majority owned and operated by Hale. The hyper-local network was a pet project of AOL CEO Tim Armstrong. It hired hundreds of reporters and ad sales staff in a bid for a local advertising market that has yet to materialize, eventually leading Armstrong to promise AOL investors that it would break even by the end of 2013. That did not happen, and the company began to seek buyers. NYT Hale Global, an investment company that specializes in turning around troubled companies through technological innovation, would essentially take over the operation, AOL said. Hale’s intention for now, the companies said, is to keep operating all of Patch’s 900 sites. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Forbes / Jeff Bercovici On its bare-bones website, Hale Global describes itself this way: “We specialize in creating value operationally in businesses facing strategic, financial, product and other challenges. In addition to capital, we bring to these troubled situations extensive turnaround skills, deep operational benches, in-house software and mobile development teams, extreme transactional speed and certainty of close.” Re/code In 2012, Patch lost $35 million; by the end of last month, it was still losing money. Now it’s someone else’s problem. TechCrunch Despite whatever downsizing may have taken place, Patch is still large, possibly too unwieldy to steer into better waters as it is today. But on top of that, it’s seeing decent traffic of 16 million people monthly according to figures from comScore. So now, the plan going forward will be to focus on a few changes to convert some of that traffic into revenues: new technology for community participation; more mobile-first and social experiences; better advertising tools and more geo-targeting for ad products, according to AOL’s announcement.

COO Henrique De Castro Out at Yahoo! (Re/code)
As has long been rumored, Yahoo! COO Henrique De Castro is departing the company. I had reported last week that he was in big trouble — he was not in attendance at any major events at CES that Yahoo! had at the high-profile event, as he had been last year — and was working on a story about his expected departure. Yahoo! had declined to return a number of emails this week about his status. Re/code Here it is, the internal memo to Yahoo! staff about the sudden — though it was not sudden, by any means — leave-taking Wednesday of De Castro, courtesy of one of my 10,563 sources left at Yahoo! Adweek Called Mayer’s $56 million man, De Castro’s tenure has been rocky, almost from the start. The COO failed to impress agencies and brands, and reported clashed with Mayer and her team regularly.

News Corp. Freezes Pensions in Cost-Control Measure (Capital New York)
News Corp. employees were told Wednesday that their pensions are being frozen, Capital has learned. The change in the company’s retirement-plan contribution scheme applies to certain employees at the New York Post, News America Marketing and News Corp. corporate headquarters, according to a source familiar with the matter, who said that approximately one-third of the employee population for those three segments will be affected.

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Politico’s Jonathan Allen Joining Bloomberg News (FishbowlNY)
Bloomberg News has hired Jonathan Allen to cover the White House and Hillary Clinton’s likely presidential bid in 2016. Allen most recently served as Politico’s White House bureau chief. He is also the co-author of the forthcoming book HRC: State Secrets And The Rebirth of Hillary Clinton. FishbowlDC HRC is a behind-the-scenes look at Clinton’s time at the State Department based on dozens of interviews with insiders and others. Politico / Dylan Byers on Media “In his time in Washington, Jonathan Allen has covered the White House, carried out a prize-winning investigation into favoritism in how Congress doled out taxpayer money and been a frequent contributor on many TV shows. And in his spare time, he co-wrote a book about Hillary Clinton’s political rebirth at the State Department, due out Feb. 11,” Craig Gordon, Bloomberg’s deputy managing editor in Washington, wrote.