The bizarre conflict that developed at AOL over Labor Day weekend—over the role of Mike Arrington, the outspoken founder of tech blog TechCrunch, and the AOL-backed CrunchFund venture capital vehicle—seems to have come to a dramatic (if unsurprising) conclusion: With Arrington's departure from AOL.
According to Fortune's Dan Primack, "AOL executives have decided to terminate Arrington," though the mechanism for this termination is still unclear—unceremonious firing? Public resignation? Walking the plank? It's also unclear what will happen to CrunchFund, the investment fund whose creation kicked off the whole sorry affair. (Primack writes that AOL "technically could default on [it], but that would lead to all sorts of other problems"; he also admits that "AOL has been so scattershot during this past week that any sort of reversal would not shock me.")
What is clear is this: Arianna Huffington won.
How? Essentially by eliminating her chief foil and most unruly employee, and likely the one with the largest independent power base. (Technically Arrington's boss since the AOL/HuffPo merger, Huffington has had trouble controlling TechCrunch and its headstrong founder.) Huffington seized her opportunity last week, when Arrington was announced as CrunchFund's chief with AOL CEO Tim Armstrong's backing, by declaring that the tech blogger would no longer work at TechCrunch in any capacity due to the obvious conflict of interest.
This was obviously a power play: Huffington and her eponymous website, as we documented yesterday, have a long history of editorial conflicts, and TechCrunch has long played by its own rules in that same respect. Arrington responded with a blog post demanding "reaffirmation of the editorial independence promised at the time of acquisition," or, alternately, a sale "back to the original shareholders." Huffington reportedly had her own demand: To "make an example of Arrington."
Guess we know which one Armstrong listened to! If the guy even had a choice in the matter. Assuming Arrington's gone (so far, only Fortune is reporting the departure as definite), it seems pretty clear that everyone at AOL/HuffPo—the company's ostensible CEO included—answers to one person: The lady whose name is on the website.