AOL CEO Calls Public Firing an 'Emotional' Mistake

CEO forced to apologize after audio of firing is leaked online
By Ruth Brown,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 14, 2013 6:06 AM CDT
Brutal Public Firing at AOL Goes Viral
Tim Armstrong, Chairman and CEO of AOL.   (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

AOL's local news network, Patch, is losing money, closing hundreds of websites, and laying off hundreds of employees, TechCrunch reports. But that is not its biggest problem right now. That honor goes to the dismissal of just one employee last week. In the middle of a meeting with Patch employees, thousands of whom were listening in via conference call, CEO Tim Armstrong abruptly fired the site's creative director Abel Lenz in about 10 words, then without skipping a beat, continued on with his talk. A recording of the meeting was posted on Romenesko (and subsequently spread like wildfire online), but here's the relevant part:

  • ...I’m going to be very specific about this, is Patch from an experience — Abel, put that camera down right now! Abel, you’re fired. Out! [Momentary pause.] If you guys think that AOL has not been committed to Patch...
Now Armstrong has had to apologize for the "mistake," which he called an "emotional response at the start of a difficult discussion." In a company memo, he took responsibility for "acting too quickly," but defended his decision: "Internal meetings of a confidential nature should not be filmed or recorded so that our employees can feel free to discuss all topics openly," he wrote, per Businessweek. "Abel had been told previously not to record a confidential meeting, and he repeated that behavior on Friday, which drove my actions." According to Business Insider, Lenz typically took photos of speakers during meetings to post on the company's internal blog. As Tech Crunch notes, nowhere does the memo say the dismissal itself was wrong, so Lenz is probably still without a job. (More AOL stories.)

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