Another day, another departing AOL executive

Struggling Internet pioneer loses Brad Garlinghouse, head of Silicon Valley operations

AOL's executive exodus continues.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Brad Garlinghouse, "one of AOL Inc.'s most senior executives," is leaving by year's end.

Fortunately, Garlinghouse has only a tangential role at the struggling Internet pioneer, merely being president of AOL's applications and commerce division and heading the company's operations in Silicon Valley. (The "tangential" thing is a joke, folks.)

Garlinghouse's departure comes three weeks after AOL's chief strategist and senior vice president of business development, Jared Grusd, announced he was leaving to join music service Spotify.

And in late July, several other AOL executives were forced out as part of CEO Tim Armstrong's efforts to turn around the company, which continues to lose revenue and post quarterly losses. One of those -- Jeff Levick, former president of global advertising and strategy -- eventually joined Spotify (where Grusd signed on) as chief advertising officer.

The WSJ reports that Garlinghouse "still views a turnaround at AOL as a possibility but that it will take longer than anticipated, said a person familiar with his thinking."

I don't believe that for a second. Garlinghouse can see what the rest of us can see -- in fact, being an insider, he sees a lot more. AOL's decline began long before Armstrong left Google to take the helm in April 2009. (Here's an article from 2002 on potential layoffs at the "struggling Internet service provider.") So there's absolutely no evidence that a turnaround for AOL is possible.

Further, it's not like Garlinghouse doesn't know "fail" when he sees it. Remember, he's the famous Yahoo "Peanut Butter Manifesto" guy.

The WSJ's source also said Garlinghouse "thinks there is an opportunity cost to staying at AOL amid the new opportunities emerging in technology on the West Coast."

Well, sure, but only if you define "opportunity cost" as "slow career suicide." Imagine being the point man in Silicon Valley for a doomed Internet dinosaur, watching venture capitalists pour millions into hot new start-ups that aspire to be the next Facebook? What does AOL aspire to these days? A slower decline in revenue?

Garlinghouse clearly is making a rational decision. Dude's gotta take care of himself.

As for Armstrong, the AOL chief executive's contract runs through April 2012. Less than six months to go, Tim. Hang in there!

Shares of AOL (NYSE: AOL) were at 14.84 early Thursday morning, down 37% for the year.

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