AOL CEO Tim Armstrong Says Huffington Post Deal Nears Closing

While he says there will be staff changes and layoffs, Arianna Huffington also promises "some great new hires."

NEW YORK -- The AOL-Huffington Post combination should be completed within days rather than weeks, AOL chairman and CEO Tim Armstrong said here on Thursday.

Appearing with Arianna Huffington at paidContent’s annual media conference, he was asked in how many weeks the deal was likely to close.

"Hopefully not weeks," Armstrong replied. Asked if it could be closed next week, he said: "Maybe."

The merger will create about $20 million in cost synergies, Armstrong reiterated previous comments.

The best organizational structure and which content brands will survive in the case of overlaps have been a key focus in the merger integration planning, the two executives told the conference. They didn't provide many specific results of an off-site meeting of top leaders that they said they just had. However, their approach is that the best brand should win out, Huffington said, mentioning AOL tech blog Engadget as an example.

Speaking of brands, the two were asked if the AOL brand will be revived or over-shadowed by Huffington Post. Huffington said the new partners must simply create good content to benefit the merged company and all its brands, because "what made HBO was great content," such as the Sopranos.

"We have improvements to make on the brand, but the brand is recognized and trusted," Armstrong said, raking issue with the suggestion that the AOL brand was ailing. He went on to call it "one of the most powerful brands in the world."

Armstrong acknowledged that the combination will lead to some staff departures and layoffs, but didn't provide specifics. AOL in an internal memo recently announced the departure of content guru David Eun who had joined about a year ago.

Armstrong said he wants to be sensitive to layoffs, recalling that it affected his family when his father lost his job.

But there will also be staff additions, emphasized Huffington who promised "some great new hires" shortly. She then divulged that Michael Calderone, a media reporter at Yahoo and previously Politico, has signed on.

She also said there are plans to launch a new section, which she didn't specify, soon that wasn't planned until she found a great editor, who she also didn't name, for it.

Huffington quipped that both companies have been so focused on the integration that she has been "violating all of my sleep rules."

Armstrong has contributed to a positive feeling at the company, she said, mentioning that during one office visit, he wore "a sweatpants suit" by Lulu Lemon that said Huffington Post on the front and AOL on the back.

Asked why she took a reported 25 percent of her payout in the deal in AOL stock, while other founders didn't, Huffington said she expects much upside after the deal. "Yes, I think they made a mistake," she said about the other founders.

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