Tim Armstrong (executive)
|Born||Timothy M. Armstrong
December 21, 1971
|Occupation||Chairman and CEO|
|Salary||$6.48 million (2013)|
Timothy M. "Tim" Armstrong (born December 21, 1971) is an American business executive, who has been the CEO and Chairman of AOL Inc since 2009. A Connecticut College graduate in economics and sociology, Armstrong began a career in journalism, before capitalizing on the advertising potential of the Internet and going online. He became known for his online advertising sales in the 1990s, and was appointed as a marketing director for Seattle-based online entertainment-and-news portal Starwave, which was acquired by Disney in 1998. After a stint as vice-president of sales at New York-based news-and-gaming company Snowball in 2000, he was appointed as U.S. sales chief for Google, and became President of Google America's operation for many years. He replaced the outgoing Randy Falco as CEO of AOL on March 12, 2009.
At AOL, Armstrong has been instrumental in bringing about a marked change in the company, propelling them into a market leader in advertising with state-of-the-art technology, and shifting its focus towards digital journalism, at the benefit of local communities. Armstrong is one of cofounders of the local news website Patch Media, which now belongs to AOL. Armstrong's efforts to downsize the company and control costs and turn the company around has been dubbed as "Project Everest" by economic commentators. Under Armstrong, AOL has established Seed, a journalism and engineering system based on the concept that editors can make decisions on what to write about by compiling data and algorithms from leading search engines and websites, and acquired the digital media property The Huffington Post in 2011. In the 2010s, Armstrong has overseen a number of purchases of platforms for AOL, including the technology news portal TechCrunch, Gravity, Adapt.tv and Millennial Media. In May 2015, when Verizon Communications acquired AOL for $4.4 billion, Armstrong remained in his position as CEO.
Armstrong holds a position as a board member for numerous bodies, including The Priceline Group, Inc., the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), the Advertising Research Foundation, and he is Chairman Emeritus for the Advertising Council. On behalf of NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, he chaired Media.NYC.2020, which reviewed the future of the global media industry and prospects for the government of New York City. He is an angel investor in New York-based Tequila Avion and Betaworks. A keen sports enthusiast, Armstrong is a trustee for the United States Olympic & Paralympic Foundation, owns the Boston Blazers club which competes in the National Lacrosse League, and co-founded the United Football League. In July 2015, Armstrong was awarded the Life Achievement Award at the Corporate Social Responsibility Awards organized by Capalino+Company, a New York City-based government and community relations company.
Education and early career
Between 1989 and 1993, Armstrong studied for a double major in Economics and Sociology at Connecticut College. During his studies he resided in Hamilton House the North Complex (known as the Plex dormitory) for three years. A keen sportsman, he played lacrosse, was on the rowing team, and coached the women’s ice hockey team for four years. He also studied at the Lawrence Academy, and became a trustee of both the Academy and Connecticut College.
After graduating from Connecticut College in 1993, Armstrong was responsible for teaching high school students in summer classes at Wellesley College, for a program called Exploration.  He joined a mutual-fund company, but quit after six months in frustration. A colleague convinced him to pursue a media career, which resulted in him establishing a financial newspaper for young people in Boston, entitled BIB (Beginnings in Boston), which offered advice to young college graduates on entering the workforce. To finance the newspaper, Armstrong and friend Michael Dressler sold their mountain bikes and amounted a debt of about $100,000. In the fall of 1994, Armstrong and Dressler closed down 'BIB to run a larger, rival newspaper, Square Deal at Harvard Square, following the death of its chief editor.
Fascinated with the emerging phenomenon of the Internet, Armstrong saw considerable potential for publishing online and earning through advertising revenues. He sold Square Deal and commenced working as an ad-sales director for I-Way, described by him as "the first Internet magazine for consumers". It was run by the Boston-based International Data Group. Armstrong demonstrated his talent for sales early on and was promoted, which led to him being appointed at Seattle-based online entertainment-and-news portal Starwave in 1995. The firm was acquired by Disney in 1998. Armstrong served as the Director of Integrated Sales and Marketing for Starwave's and Disney's ABC and ESPN Internet ventures. While at Starwave he made his first $1 million online-advertising deal with Columbia/HCA, a health firm.
In the summer of 2000, Armstrong was appointed Vice-President of Sales at New York-based news-and-gaming company Snowball. While there he became interested in Google ads and arranged to meet its sales and operations chief, Omid Kordestani. Kordestani invited him to California to meet Sergey Brin and Larry Page, who subsequently appointed him as U.S. sales chief for Google. He held positions such as President of Google's Americas Operations (which included the United States and Latin America), Senior Vice President of Google Inc., Vice President of Ad Sales, and served on Google's global operating committee. While at Google, Armstrong was credited for building what The New Yorker describes as a "direct-sales force of more than a thousand employees", promoting advertisers and their agencies. Armstrong was instrumental in convincing Google that a significant amount of their revenue could be generated from individuals who could sell large display ads on other websites. He played a key role in the establishment of Google AdSense in 2005, which he knew would open advertisers up to a broader range of opportunities at Google. Armstrong led Google into display advertising, aided by a $3.1 million acquisition of Doubleclick in 2007, concluding that the transaction would "strengthen our advertising network by expanding our access to publisher inventory and enabling us to serve the needs of a broader set of advertisers and ad agencies". He used part of the wealth he amassed at Google to establish the New Jersey news website Patch Media, with close friend, Jon Brod, which was later acquired by AOL when Armstrong was appointed.
By the late 2000s, Armstrong had developed a reputation among the business elite for his soaring Google ad revenues. In early 2009, Jeff Bewkes, the chairman Time Warner, announced that he wanted to rejuvenate AOL and coordinate it as a private company. He met with Armstrong to discuss business. At the time the firm had been struggling, with its revenues dropping by some 22% to just under $3.3 billion between 2008 and 2009 alone, and it had undergone a succession of five different CEOs in just a decade. Bewkes formally appointed Armstrong as CEO of AOL on March 12, 2009, seeing him as a way to regain and secure the trust of Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and advertisers. He said of the decision to appoint Armstrong: "Tim is the right executive to move AOL into the next phase of its evolution. At Google, Armstrong helped build one of the most successful media teams in the history of the Internet -- helping to make Google the most popular online search advertising platform in the world for direct and brand marketers. He’s an advertising pioneer with a stellar reputation and proven track record. We are privileged to have him preside over AOL as its audience and programming businesses continue to grow and its advertising platform expands globally. He’ll also be helpful in helping Time Warner determine the optimal structure for AOL." Under Armstrong, AOL has since progressed into a market leader in advertising, sporting what Dan Costa, editor-in-chief of PCMag.com, describes as "cutting edge ad technology". When Armstrong joined AOL, the company moved its headquarters to the Wanamaker Building, a former department store, on East 9th Street in Manhattan. According to the New Yorker, it "came to resemble the offices of Google, with bright colors and open spaces". That year he was named by Fortune magazine as one of the "40 under 40".
At AOL, Armstrong has been the kingpin of its rebranding as a content company, focusing on original material, and making the decision to cut the number of ads generated by the firm to make advertising more exclusive and appealing to the most prominent advertisers. A marked change occurred in 2010, when Time Warner formally consented to AOL becoming a privately traded company on the New York Stock Exchange, which resulted in a cut of the company's workforce by a third and reduction to often a single featured advert a day, instead of the 15 previously. That year Armstrong sold the social-networking site Bebo for around $10 million, a reported eightieth of its original cost. A further 1000 employees were laid off in March 2011, though Armstrong claimed at the same time that he had also been responsible for the creation of 1000 new jobs in the journalism sector. Armstrong's efforts to downsize the company and control costs and turn the company around has been dubbed as "Project Everest" by economic commentators.
Author Ben Arment describes Armstrong as "turning the company into a local news service", evolving AOL into a "journalism business that reports local news and filters the best of the Web". One of the strengths of Armstrong's strategy and focus on digital journalism is catering for local communities, particularly those who are devoid of their own newspapers. Consolidating the move into journalism came in June 2011 with the acquisition of The Huffington Post. The Huffington Post Media Group was established to integrate the newspaper and AOL's News, Tech, Women, Local, Multicultural, Entertainment, Video, and Community portals in a merger which was estimated at the time to reach 117 million Americans and 270 million people worldwide. Armstrong appointed Arianna Huffington, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the paper as president. He stated of the merger: "The acquisition of The Huffington Post will create a next-generation American media company with global reach that combines content, community, and social experiences for consumers. Together, our companies will embrace the digital future and become a digital destination that delivers unmatched experiences for both consumers and advertisers." A strong advocate of women's issues, Armstrong launched a number of sites under the AOL banner which specifically cater to women, including StyleList.com, AOL Shopping, and KitchenDaily.com, and 60% of the readers at Patch Media are female. In his business meetings and discussions, Armstrong, who can work up to 80 hours a week, is known to be a keen listener, and promotes an atmosphere in which executives can be outspoken and constructive with their input.
In the early 2010s, Armstrong has pursued a number of platform acquisitions for AOL, including the purchases of technology news portal TechCrunch in September 2010, Adap.tv in 2013 for $405 million, and Gravity in January 2014. Armstrong appointed Saul Hansell, a technology and finance reporter of The New York Times to run a journalism and engineering system for AOL called Seed, based on the concept that editors can make decisions on what to write about by compiling data and algorithms from the leading search engines like Google and social network sites like Facebook. By January 2011, Seed had a staff of 25 and had taken an active role in writing both news stories and compiling videos for AOL sites. Patch remains a productive news source, and as of January 2011 it reportedly cost AOL approximately $30 a quarter to run. In a 2011 interview, Armstrong claimed that Patch was responsible for the "largest investment in local communities outside of what the Obama administration is doing". In 2010, Armstrong launched AOL's "Monster Help Day", which commits AOL employees worldwide to work for free for a day to raise money for charity. By the time of the 6th Annual Help Day in 2015, the scheme had 85 projects running worldwide, with over 50,000 work hours donated.
In May 2015, Verizon Communications acquired AOL for $4.4 billion, moving AOL's stock up by over 17%. Armstrong remained in his position as CEO. Fortune conjectured that the Verizon deal would bring Armstrong himself approximately $59 million in stock options. Video content is increasingly becoming a major part of AOL in what CNBC describes as the "content golden age". The following month, it was announced that AOL had entered into a ten-year agreement with Microsoft, giving AOL the responsibility for its advertising sales across Microsoft platforms, and AOL in return agreeing to use the Bing search engine instead of Google on its sites. In July, Armstrong was awarded the Life Achievement Award at the Corporate Social Responsibility Awards organized by Capalino+Company, a New York City-based government and community relations company. In September, Armstrong and AOL acquired mobile ad tech company Millennial Media in a deal worth a reported $238 million, with the aim of adding a "leading supply-side platform for app monetization" to AOL's assets. Speaking at the MPA’s American Magazine Media Conference in New York in January 2016, Armstrong stated: "I thought the Internet was the biggest thing to ever happen in my lifetime. I think mobile will dwarf that".
In January 2016, AOL bought off French programmatic ad platform AlephD, complementing the programmatic ad platform Armstrong had established for AOL in 2014, entitled ONE. Armstrong summarised the direction that AOL was going in 2014: "AOL has spent the last four years building platforms to facilitate the efficient and effective flow of advertising dollars to digital. We build brands – our own, and those of more than 22,000 publishers in our global network and the thousands of marketers we work with daily to help them accomplish their business goals in today's fast moving, dynamic market. On the platforms side of our business, as machines automate more media decisions across TV to digital, we are well-positioned to help advertisers, agencies and publishers realize the true value of data-driven advertising."
Armstrong has been involved as an angel investor in numerous projects. He is personal investor in the New York-based Tequila Avion, and with AOL invests in Betaworks. He serves on boards such as The Priceline Group, Inc. (appointed as director in 2013), the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), the Advertising Research Foundation, the Paley Center for Media, the New York regional board of Teach for America, the Waterside Charter School in Stamford, Connecticut and is Chairman Emeritus for the Advertising Council, who bestowed upon him their 60th Annual Public Service Award in 2013. He is the chairman of the IAB Education Foundation, described by AOL as a "a new non-profit working to improve diversity and close the skills gap across the digital media and advertising landscape", and serves as an advisor to the consulting firm McChrystal Group. On behalf of NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, he chaired Media.NYC.2020, which reviewed the future of the global media industry, the implications for NYC, and suggested actionable next steps for New York City's government.
Still a keen sports enthusiast, Armstrong is a trustee for the United States Olympic & Paralympic Foundation, and owns the Boston Blazers club which competes in the National Lacrosse League. He also co-founded the United Football League with Bill Hambrecht.
In August 2013 an audio recording was leaked of Armstrong offhandedly firing an employee earlier that month during a conference call with over 1000 attending for taking a photo of the event. Armstrong has publicly apologized for the firing of the employee since then, but did not offer to reverse the firing or provide any compensation.
In February 2014, Armstrong claimed that ObamaCare and two “distressed babies” increased healthcare costs for AOL by $7.1 million per year and that, as a result, 401(k) contribution benefits for rank-and-file employees would be modified so employees that left before the end of the year, received no company contribution towards their 401(k).
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tim Armstrong (executive).|
- Profile at AOL
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Tim Armstrong collected news and commentary at The New York Times
|CEO of AOL