AOL CEO Tim Armstrong Apologizes After Publicly Firing Patch Creative Director Abel Lenz

  @ericbrownzzz on August 13 2013 11:26 PM
Tim Armstrong, chief executive officer of AOL
Tim Armstrong, chief executive officer of AOL. Reuters

AOL CEO Tim Armstrong has apologized after publicly firing Patch creative director Abel Lenz during a mass conference call with more than 1,000 other employees.

In the midst of announcing large layoffs at the Patch network of local news sites on Friday, Armstrong publicly fired one employee in particular. After seeing Lenz holding a camera, Armstrong singled him out and publicly axed him in front of everyone. Over the weekend, Jim Romenesko posted a leaked audio of the incident, leading to public backlash against Armstrong.

On Tuesday, Gawker’s Sam Biddle published an email from Armstrong apologizing for his behavior. Sent out to all AOL employees, the email “Accountability starts with me,” sees Armstrong apologize for losing his temper during the meeting. It seems that Lenz is still fired, but at least Armstrong feels bad about it.

Read Armstrong’s email in its entirety below, courtesy of Gawker.

From: "Armstrong, Tim" Subject: Accountability starts with me Date: 13 August 2013 21:41:21 BST To: "Armstrong, Tim"

AOLers - I am writing you to acknowledge the mistake I made last Friday during the Patch all-hands meeting when I publicly fired Abel Lenz. It was an emotional response at the start of a difficult discussion dealing with many people's careers and livelihoods. I am the CEO and leader of the organization, and I take that responsibility seriously. We talk a lot about accountability and I am accountable for the way I handled the situation, and at a human level it was unfair to Abel. I’ve communicated to him directly and apologized for the way the matter was handled at the meeting.

My action was driven by the desire to openly communicate with over a thousand Patch employees across the US. The meeting on Friday was the second all-hands we had run that week and people came to Friday's meeting knowing we would be openly discussing some of the potential changes needed at Patch. As you know, I am a firm believer in open meetings, open Q&A, and this level of transparency requires trust across AOL. Internal meetings of a confidential nature should not be filmed or recorded so that our employees can feel free to discuss all topics openly. Abel had been told previously not to record a confidential meeting, and he repeated that behavior on Friday, which drove my actions.

We have been through many difficult situations in turning around AOL and I have done my best to make the best decisions in the long-term interest of the employees and the company. On Friday I acted too quickly and I learned a tremendous lesson and I wanted you to hear that directly from me. We have tough decisions and work to do on Patch, but we're doing them thoughtfully and as openly as we can. At AOL, we had strong earnings last week and we’re adding one of the best companies in the world to the team. AOL is in a great position, and we’ll keep moving forward. - TA

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