Michael Arrington, founder of technology blog TechCrunch and known for his fiery personality and zero tolerance for corporate authority, is no longer with the San Francisco-based tech news publication, according to a report by Fortune.
Yes, this is a drawn out saga, and we already reported last week that an AOL spokesperson had said Arrington was no longer employed at AOL. But then there was more back and forth, and everything was still unclear again this week.
But Forbes is now reporting that AOL execs have decided to “terminate” Arrington for real. If true, the report brings to a close a tumultuous week at TechCrunch that raised questions about Arrington’s — and AOL’s — involvement in the tech news blog’s editorial operations. Arrington was in the process of raising a $20 million investment fund called the CrunchFund, and AOL is a significant contributor to that fund. But the details around what happens with the fund are still unclear.
This most recent report drew a wide variety reactions from the tech world, as seen on twitter:
“AOL bought TechCrunch because of it’s (sic) large and intensely loyal audience,” Mediaite editor-at-large Rachel Sklar said. “(An audience) that Arrington could whisk away, along with his former staff.”
“It’s not the audience that AOL has to worry about, it’s the staff,” Reuters finance blogger Felix Salmon said. “Arrington could just hire them all away.”
“F**k it man, let’s start a Tumblr reviewing startups,” said former Business Insider reporter Dan Frommer. (Tumblr is a lightweight blogging service.)
“CrunchFund wizard might be out per Fortune, but seems chaotic still as to what’s going on there, (according) to my sources,” said All Things D reporter Kara Swisher.
“Arrington, we hardly knew you,” said Economist.com contributor Glenn Fleishman. “Or, rather, we knew you better than you knew yourself.”
“Looks like Michael Arrington went the AOL Way after all,” AfterShark host Jason Cochran said.
“Arianna just ousted Arrington as the mayor of TechCrunch,” former Forbes writer Taylor Buley said. “It’s almost a Foursquare check-in.”
“My life feels very strange to me,” Arrington said. “Yeah, me too,” TechCrunch reporter Alexia Tsotsis added.
But AOL has been so wishy-washy, there’s no telling what will happen now.
AOL CEO Tim Armstrong had said last week that he was very excited about investing in the CrunchFund and added TechCrunch “operates by different rules than other publications.” Arrington has also recruited a large list of other Valley venture capitalists to invest in the CrunchFund. But Armstong’s enthusiasm also raised questions about whether Arrington’s involvement in the CrunchFund would skew some coverage in favor of or against companies involved with the fund.
Arrington delivered an ultimatum to AOL Tuesday demanding TechCrunch’s new parent company respect the site’s editorial independence. That meant allowing Arrington to continue covering news and ensuring that Huffington Post editor in chief Arianna Huffington would not meddle with the company.
He offered to buy TechCrunch back from AOL if the company wouldn’t agree to those terms. It was essentially a $30 million offer (or whatever the price AOL paid for TechCrunch) to ensure that TechCrunch would be free from Arianna Huffington’s meddling. No word yet, though, on whether that ultimatum has gotten a response from AOL.