Why Delay AOL's Mass Layoffs?

Everyone knows Tim Armstrong is planning more layoffs at AOL once the company is spun off from Time Warner. So why let them hang over the company's return to the markets as an independently-traded stock?

Armstrong, the former Google advertising chief (pictured), jettisoned some top lieutenants from AOL, the internet conglomerate, last month. Beyond that, he's believed to be planning major job cuts as part of a sweeping reorganization of the company. "AOL is not going to change itself by incremental movements," Armstrong recently told PaidContent. Asked if this meant "large cuts," he talked about going "deep into the employee organization... to come up with ways to structure the company... I would expect announcements about that by early next year."

Early next year would mean just after the spinoff from Time Warner, assuming it goes forward as expected late this year. An AOLer who attended a recent internal "Town Hall" meeting on the restructuring, dubbed Project Everest, confirmed the layoffs are planned for post-spinoff.

One explanation we've heard for that timing is that Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes didn't want layoffs taking place while AOL was part of his company. That makes some sense — layoffs typically carry a price tag, and Time Warner presumably doesn't want to take the hit for a move that will benefit another company over the long term. Time Warner isn't taking on debt as part of the transaction, our AOL tipster said, which jibes with the media conglomerate's statements that it is AOL that might load up on debt as part of the spinoff.

But a delayed deep restructuring means uncertainty for investors considering what to do with AOL shares in the earliest days of tradubg, which in turn means a potentially depressed price. A weak re-debut for AOL shares would not bode well for a company that has already had more than its share of struggles. Then again, if anyone can sell uncertainty, it's a consummate salesman like Armstrong.

UPDATE: 3:38 pm ET: Post updated with comments from an AOLer.