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TechCrunch editor and founder Michael Arrington is no longer employed by AOL, clearing up some confusion about his standing with the company after his $20 million CrunchFund was announced yesterday.
Both Arianna Huffington, head of AOL’s media group, and AOL spokesperson Mario Ruiz confirmed to Business Insider this morning that Arrington was no longer employed by the company.
The news makes Arrington’s venture fund seem like less of a conflict of interest, since he no longer has any official capacity at TechCrunch. Still, while Arrington may no longer be attached to TechCrunch officially, I have a hard time believing that his influence over the site and the companies that it covers will disappear overnight.
Previously, it was thought that Arrington would step down as TechCrunch’s managing editor but still be involved with writing. Speaking to Business Insider, Huffington clarified the situation, saying that Arrington could contribute to AOL’s blogs without being paid, as long as he follows AOL’s blogging guidelines. (The latter point is interesting, since AOL CEO Tim Armstrong previously gave Arrington leeway to invest in companies he was covering, while other AOL writers were banned from doing so.)
AOL acquired TechCrunch last year, and it offered Arrington an earn out of over $10 million if he stayed on for three years. It’s unclear if his move to the venture world will affect that.
Update: AOL SVP of corporate communications Maureen Sullivan tells Business Insider that “AOL is not comfortable with TechCrunch being used as an access point for deal flow.” Score one for journalistic integrity, though Arrington’s CrunchFund partners may not be so enthusiastic.
Update 2: Even Mike Arrington seems confused by the news. “I have no idea what AOL’s final position on this will be,” he told the New York Times this afternoon. “I look forward to hearing it. I’ll respond once Arianna has made her last statement.”