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techcrunch aol michael arringtonAOL chief executive Tim Armstrong just confirmed that his company has acquired popular tech blog TechCrunch. He’s currently on-stage in San Francisco with TechCrunch founder and editor Michael Arrington at TechCrunch’s Disrupt conference. The pair said they were spurred to reveal the acquisition earlier than planned after a scoop by GigaOm, a rival blog, yesterday that the deal was about to close.

In fact, they signed the contract on-stage.

Armstrong said he first approached Arrington about an acquisition in May, at the TechCrunch Disrupt Conference in New York. His main condition: That Arrington, who has been such a key part of the site’s identity and popularity, stay on board for at least three years.

Under Armstrong, a former top sales executive at Google, AOL has focused on its Web content properties such as AOL News, Moviefone, and Fanhouse as it continues to shed its former identity as an Internet service provider.

Asked how the TechCrunch properties might coexist with competing AOL-owned sites like Engadget, Armstrong said: “I would expect these brands to operate independently but leverage each other.” Besides its flagship TechCrunch site, TechCrunch has a smaller, gadget-focused site, CrunchGear.

Arrington also said that Armstrong will allow TechCrunch to continue its occasionally controversial approach to breaking news. For example, if a situation like the leak of internal Twitter documents to TechCrunch occurred again, AOL would still allow TechCrunch to publish those documents.

Armstrong has published a post on TechCrunch announcing the deal, though it’s basically just a copy of the press release.

“Tim Armstrong and his team have an exciting vision for the future of AOL as a global leader in creating and delivering world-class content to consumers, be it through original content creation, partnerships or acquisitions,” Arrington said in the release. “I look forward to working with everyone at AOL as we build on our reputation for independent tech journalism and continue to set the agenda for insight, reviews and collaborative discussion about the future of the technology industry.”

The acquisition price was not disclosed. Business Insider heard that it was $25 million. It sounds like the source for that number is two degrees removed from the deal — AOL reportedly told “insiders” about the price, then one of the insiders told Business Insider. (Update: CNBC’s sources say AOL paid $40 million.)

If true, the price sounds a bit low for a company earning a reported $10 million annually. But Arrington doesn’t face as much pressure to earn a big exit, since he didn’t raise any outside funding (unlike other tech news sites like GigaOm and VentureBeat).

[Photo by Matt Lynley. Front page image via Flickr/Joi Ito.]

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