October 13, 2011, 11:32 AM —
It hasn't been lost on AOL chief executive Tim Armstrong that September was unkind to CEOs of struggling tech companies. (That is, if you consider $10 million severance packages to be unkind.)
So one can't blame him for desperately trying to find a buyer for the money-losing Internet relic he started running in March 2009. Time's running out.
But, c'mon, is this some kind of joke?
Armstrong has been meeting with top shareholders in the past couple of weeks to push the idea of a sale to Yahoo Inc that could wring up to $1.5 billion of cost savings, according to sources with knowledge of the discussions.
It's a great plan, expect for one minor detail: The company Armstrong wants to swoop down and save
him AOL is in the middle of its own existential crisis.
Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz was one of the CEOs fired last month (along with HP chief executive Leo Apotheker) after the company's board determined that she a) wasn't growing revenue, and b) couldn't articulate a clear strategy for Yahoo to successfully compete with Google and Facebook for online ad dollars.
Yahoo's board has no idea whether to sell the entire company, sell parts of it, or find a CEO to try another turnaround. It's in "internal review" mode, otherwise known as "let's take inventory and see what we can be sold for."
Companies in those situations aren't likely buyers, though Armstrong is welcome to keep dreaming. He may as well, since his dreams undoubtedly are more pleasant than the reality of running a doomed Internet pioneer whose shares (NYSE: AOL) were down 48% through Wednesday since the spinoff from Time Warner in December 2009.
Wall Street is indulging Armstrong's delusion, with shares of AOL up 61 cents, or 4.6%, to 13.76 in Thursday's late-morning trading. Meanwhile, shares of Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) were down 19 cents, or 1.2%, to 15.58.