AOL is trying to makeover Patch so that it can be, you know, profitable. But that long journey got off to a rough start on Friday when AOL chief executive officer Tim Armstrong spontaneously fired an important executive live on a conference call for taking a picture.
That strangest part is there's a recording that leaked out to Jim Romenesko. Armstrong won't care about that, though, because he was explaining how he's not worried about Patch, the company's network of local blogs, when the unceremonious axing happened. In the middle of an explanation about the company's direction, and how leaks don't bother him, Armstrong decided someone had crossed a line and decided to get rid of the employee right there on the conference call. This is what the call sounds like, per Romenesko:
If you think what’s going on right now is a joke, and you want to joke around about it, you should pick your stuff up and leave Patch today, and the reason is, and I’m going to be very specific about this, is Patch from an experience — Abel, put that camera down right now! Abel, you’re fired. Out! [Momentary pause.] If you guys think that AOL has not been committed to Patch, and won’t stay committed to Patch, you’re wrong.
That's it. With that, an employee was gone. And Abel isn't just a lowly intern snap-chatting during a conference call, which makes the whole thing even stranger. Armstrong fired Patch's creative director Abel Lenz on a conference call with a thousand people listening in. Lenz has so far remained quiet about the dust up, only offering this "no comment" Path update since being dismissed.
Employees were scared enough because AOL just announced they're going to shut down hundreds of Patch blogs. Why taking a picture during the conference call became a fireable offense remains a mystery. But to get rid of an important cog in the machine on a whim in such an embarrassing fashion seems like a good indication that, just maybe, things aren't going as well as Armstrong would have us believe.