Arianna Huffington Leaving Huffington Post to Focus on Health Startup

Arianna Huffington GETTY - H 2016
Taylor Hill/FilmMagic

"It's important to know when one door closes and another opens and I felt that moment had arrived."

Arianna Huffington is leaving The Huffington Post, the digital media outlet she co-founded 11 years ago.

Huffington, who currently serves as editor-in-chief of HuffPost, plans to step down in the coming weeks to focus on her soon-to-launch health and wellness startup Thrive Global.

"It's important to know when one door closes and another opens and I felt that moment had arrived," Huffington, 66, told The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news on Thursday.

Huffington herself confirmed the news in a series of tweets posted shortly thereafter.

"I thought HuffPost would be my last act. But I’ve decided to step down as HuffPost’s editor-in-chief to run my new venture, Thrive Global," she wrote. "To everyone at HuffPost: it’s you who make HuffPost what it is. I’m filled with gratitude to all the colleagues and friends I’ve made here."

After sharing a press release about Thrive, which also includes her news about leaving HuffPost, Huffington said of her new company, "Thrive Global's mission is to change the way we work & live by ending the collective delusion that burnout is a necessary price for success."

Huffington signed a new deal in June 2015 to remain at HuffPost, part of Verizon-owned AOL, as president and editor-in-chief through 2019, but, The Journal noted, she said her contract allowed her to launch Thrive while continuing her role at the site. When she secured Thrive's Series A funding late last week, a move that also was announced on Thursday, she realized she couldn't do both and that the startup needed her "full attention," Huffington told The Journal.

Huffington has published a number of books about health and sleep issues, including Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder and The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time. Over the past year, she has spoken frequently about the dangers of getting too little sleep.

In the Thrive press release, Huffington elaborated on how she realized she couldn't build her new company and continue as HuffPost editor-in-chief and that doing so would "have involved working around the clock, which would be a betrayal of the very principles of Thrive I've been writing and speaking about."

"Since publishing Thrive and then The Sleep Revolution, I've dreamt of taking the next big step to help transform the way we work and live. When I decided to create Thrive Global, I thought it would be possible to build a startup and continue as editor-in-chief of HuffPost. Today, it's clear that was an illusion. As Thrive Global moved from an idea to a reality, with investors, staff and offices, it became clear to me that I simply couldn't do justice to both companies," Huffington added in a statement. "Change is desperately needed if another generation is to avoid the burnout that too often comes with success today. That's why I'm filled with excitement at the prospect of devoting the rest of my life to accelerating the culture shift away from merely surviving and succeeding to thriving. ... To truly thrive means knowing when the time has come to close one chapter and start the next, and for me that time has arrived."

She continued: "I step down as editor-in-chief filled with gratitude for our amazing HuffPost team and for what we've build together, and for [AOL CEO] Tim Armstrong, who had the vision to buy HuffPost five years ago and to support from day one our global expansion. The journey of the last 11 years has exceeded my wildest expectations. I'm proud of all we've accomplished and very confident about HP's future with the strongest leadership team we've ever had and the full support of AOL and Verizon. And of course, HuffPost will always be part of me, and I'll always be here to help in every way possible as it continues to reach new heights."

Armstrong, in a separate statement, praised Huffington and declared that AOL and Verizon remain committed to the digital media outlet she co-founded.

"Arianna is a visionary who built The Huffington Post into a truly transformative news platform," he said. "Today, The Huffington Post is a firmly established and celebrated news source and AOL and Verizon are committed to continuing its growth and the groundbreaking work Arianna pioneered. We are confident that our strong editorial leadership team will maintain the exacting standards and high-quality journalism of our Pulitzer Prize-winning newsroom. The Huffington Post draws more than 178 million people worldwide on a daily basis and continues to distinguish itself with groundbreaking reporting and analysis. We remain committed to our mission of making The Huffington Post the most influential and innovative news company in the world. We are looking forward to partnering with Arianna on Thrive Global and are grateful for what she's done in creating such an iconic brand."

Thrive, which will launch after the election in November, features support from some of the same people who worked with Huffington on HuffPost. The Series A funding round was led by Lerer Hippeau Ventures.

"Kenny Lerer was my HuffPost co-founder, Eric Hippeau HuffPost's CEO at the time of the acquisition by AOL and Fred Harman, who's joining our board, our largest HuffPost investor," Huffington stated in her Thrive press release. "It's really exciting to have the HuffPost band back together and I love the fact that Thrive Global will be headquartered in the same offices where HuffPost was born in SoHo."

Other Thrive investors include Advancit Capital, which was co-founded by Shari Redstone, Huffington's fellow media mogul Joanna Coles, hedge funder Ray Dalio, Greycroft Partners, Sean Parker and numerous other companies and individuals.

Thrive plans to work to improve corporate and consumer well-being and productivity by reducing stress and burnout through trainings, seminars, e-courses, coaching and ongoing support based on the latest scientific findings from experts in neuroscience, psychology, productivity, sports and sleep.

Huffington, a native of Greece, co-founded HuffPost in 2005 with Lerer, Jonah Peretti and Andrew Breitbart. AOL bought Huffington Post in 2011. Verizon, in turn, bought AOL for $4.4 billion in 2015.

Read Huffington's early-morning tweets about her move below.