I’ve had the chance to poll a few folks in the industry – all of them very senior executives who are now, have recently, and/or will again run very large Internet companies. Their reactions, in no particular order:
1. This showed how badly Time Warner needed to shake up AOL’s management, both because “Rondy” (the term used, derisively, to describe the top two departing AOL execs) was not working, and because TW needed to show a big shift in order to convince investors it’s worth backing a spin out of AOL.
2. Armstrong was not going to get any bigger job inside Google, they’re all taken. And he really wanted to do something bigger.
3. This was an “upgrade” for sure, but unwinding AOL and then finding its footing is very hard, so there were doubts remaining as to whether Armstrong is up to it.
4. Related – major doubts as to whether AOL has a path back to relevance and real growth.
5. Armstrong is getting “an undermanaged company with great assets at a low price.”