UPDATE [5/9/12 12:10pm EST]: In an AOL employee call this morning, CEO of AOL Tim Armstrong denied that the company would be selling TechCrunch or Engadget. I don't know where the rumor came from, he reportedly said.
The battered relationship between AOL and its news sites has been a continuing saga ever since the tech giant bought the Huffington Post for $315 million in early 2011. AOL has been repeatedly forced to respond to rumors buzzing about killing its Patch division, and now, it must now respond to rumors of another kind: PandoDaily writer and former TechCrunch employee Sarah Lacy is reporting that AOL is looking to sell Engadget and TechCrunch for somewhere between $70 million and $100 million.
Lucy says she has the information from two independent sources, and that rumored blog sales could include all of AOL Tech, which means blogs such as Joystiq, TUAW and others would be sold alongside TechCrunch and Engadget. AOL is hoping to make something off the drama of the past couple of years: $70 million would net the struggling Internet company about $10 million profit on what AOL originally paid for both TechCrunch and Engadget's original parent Weblogs Inc., says Lacy. According to one source, AOL management has been seriously considering the move since early this year.
The report adds that AOL will be evaluating the potential sale of its technology blogs during the next six months to a year. Despite the long timeframe given to find the right suitor, Lacy emphasizes that AOL management would prefer to move quicker if possible.
Arianna Huffington, the polarizing media mogul who formerly led all of AOL's media properties, alluded to the desire of focusing more on the Huffington Post at a recent Business Insider conference. What I asked for is for us to be more independent, to have technology, marketing and [business development] now into Huffington Post, so that we can accelerate all our growth, and for me to be freed up to just concentrate exclusively on HuffPost, Huffington reportedly said.
Michael Arrington, former editor-in-chief of TechCrunch, despises Huffington and the way she runs the popular technology blog he founded. He's made little effort to keep his opinion of his former employer to himself.
Huffington seemed to enjoy meddling in TechCrunch in her leisure time, wrote Arrington on his retort to TechCrunch, Uncrunched, after his successor at the blog was fired by her. She put all her weight behind [Erick] Schonfeld when I left. But within a few weeks the rumors were that she was furious at him for the way the news broke about M.G. Siegler joining CrunchFund. I doubt Erick even realized, but he was a marked man from that day on. Yes, something that petty can piss her off.
He later adds, Next I could write about how pleasing Arianna and having editorial independence simultaneously is impossible. But I won't.
His final warning to his successor is paints a stark picture of the editorial discussions that were being had among the AOL editorial team at the time. Don't bring a knife to a gun fight with Arianna, says Arrington. She's smart and she's mean as hell and she tends to win her fights. I lost.
It's unclear whether Huffington is actually leading the sale now that her role at AOL has shrunk. In the PandoDaily report, Lucy suggests that Michael Arrington may try to use the opportunity to buy back control of his blog. He responded to the idea: I don't know anything, said Arrington. No one tells me anything. I am not in the least bit interested [in buying back TechCrunch]. I was Team Pando all the way until Sarah Lacy fired me. That does not change my position on TechCrunch.