AOL acquires TechCrunch – a good day for Arrington, a bad day for his readers

September 28, 2010

AOL has finally managed to prise TechCrunch away from the sweaty grip of Michael Arrington. So it’s a good day for him, AOL, and the TechCrunch writers who own shares in the company, but a bad day for fans and readers of the site. Possibly.

Just a few hours after we covered the rumor that AOL was to acquire TechCrunch, the deal went through and was announced on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt by AOL CEO Tim Armstrong. Standing alongside him were TechCrunch owner Michael Arrington and CEO Heather Harde. Both of whom have likely just added a few zeroes to their bank balances.

Full details of the deal haven’t yet been disclosed, but it’s likely Michael Arrington will reveal all on TechCrunch at some point. At this stage there are two estimates as to the price AOL had to pay for TechCrunch, one of $25 million, and one of $40. Somewhere between the two looks likely. If so then AOL has bagged itself an absolute bargain, as TechCrunch is thought to have revenues of around $9 million a year.

TechCrunch will operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of AOL but retain complete editorial control. This is similar to how Engadget operates under AOL’s umbrella. However, TechCrunch has always been more aggressive and resistant to following party lines than Engadget, which could mean there’ll be some friction between Arrington, the pool of writers, and their new paymasters.

Arrington has committed to staying on at TechCrunch for at least three years, but this deal gives him the means to get out and a timeline to do so. Which is what many people assumed was his plan after he moved to Seattle earlier this year.

Notice of the acquisition was posted on TechCrunch by AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, and the comments suggest the site’s readership isn’t too happy at what it generally feels is a sellout by Arrington and co. Armstrong didn’t help himself by posting the press release in full, something which TechCrunch has always been against doing.

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