Rumor to reality: AOL buys TechCrunch

Deal announced at TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

Well, that was fast.

Just a couple of hours after I posted an item about the rumored acquisition of technology industry website TechCrunch by AOL, the deal was announced by AOL chief executive Tim Armstrong.

Initially I was told by a friend in the M&A research industry that the deal is for $40 million (that figure also was cited by CNBC, based on "sources"), but Nicholas Carlson over at Business Insider writes that the price is $25 million, though Carlson says that figure comes from "a second-hand source." Carlson does speculate that the $25 million figure might be an initial payment, with more possible as part of a performance clause.

Armstrong announced the news online, appropriately enough, in a blog post on TechCrunch with the headline: "Tim Armstrong: We Got TechCrunch!" (It was his first post there. Good for him; he shows promise!)

Here are excerpts from the press release:

San Francisco, CA, September 28, 2010 – AOL Inc. [NYSE: AOL] today announced that it has agreed to acquire TechCrunch, Inc., the company that owns and operates TechCrunch and its network of websites dedicated to technology news, information and analysis. TechCrunch and its associated properties and conferences will join the AOL Technology Network while retaining their editorial independence. The announcement will be made on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco.

Founded by Michael Arrington, TechCrunch operates a global network of dedicated properties from Europe to Japan, as well as vertically-oriented websites, including MobileCrunch, CrunchGear, TechCrunchIT, GreenTech, TechCrunchTV and CrunchBase. The TechMeme Leaderboard ranks TechCrunch as the No. 1 source of breaking tech news online, followed by AOL’s Engadget.

“Michael and his colleagues have made the TechCrunch network a byword for breaking tech news and insight into the innovative world of start-ups, and their reputation for top-class journalism precisely matches AOL’s commitment to delivering the expert content critical to this audience,” said Tim Armstrong, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of AOL.

Arrington said: “Tim Armstrong and his team have an exciting vision for the future of AOL as a global leader in creating and delivering world-class content to consumers, be it through original content creation, partnerships or acquisitions. I look forward to working with everyone at AOL as we build on our reputation for independent tech journalism and continue to set the agenda for insight, reviews and collaborative discussion about the future of the technology industry.”

One interesting question is whether Arrington will be allowed to write and say the types of provocative things that have earned him enemies and enmity in the industry. He's working for someone else now, and I'm not sure how far the promised "editorial independence" will extend.

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