free html hit counter Google MAKES Money on AOL Writeoff - John Battelle's Search Blog

Google MAKES Money on AOL Writeoff

By - July 27, 2009

aol-2-tm.jpggooglogo-tm.jpgBack in 2005, Google bought 5% of AOL for $1 billion. Today, Time Warner disclosed it had bought that 5% back from Google for….$283 million.

Ouch. But wait. There’s a silver lining.

Back when the deal was done, analysts like…me… suggested that AOL was going to go public, and that Google was going to profit from that. Well, looks like AOL will go public…but not at the lofty valuation 2005 seemed to promise. Of course, Time Warner dithered for five years about whether to spin the damn thing out (I pleaded in a blog post in 2004 that they do this). Had they done in then, or even in 05 or 06, I’d wager Google would have looked pretty damn smart.   

Now, they’ve lost $717 million on the deal, but let’s not forget, they did keep the AOL distribution for their search services, and that’s certainly worth a lot. Not to mention, Google really owes AOL one for the solid that company did in giving their business to Google back in 2002. That deal pretty much set Google’s table for a good seven year feast, one that was so rich, Google can afford to write down more than half a billion dollars. And as you may recall, the company already has. Looking at the math, Google wrote it down $726 million back in Q1. That means, if my math is right, Google in fact MADE $9 million on the deal. Whadya know?!

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2 thoughts on “Google MAKES Money on AOL Writeoff

  1. Chris Tolles says:


    Nice writeup — let me point out that AOL also was Google’s first portal deal.

    We launched Netscape Search with the ODP and Google as the backstop in 1999 (after the AOL acquisition), which turned out to time well with their getting funding, as it turned out.

    You could say that Google really really owes AOL.

  2. This is a great piece. Very thought provoking. I like the sort of ending that leaves it opn to personal input. Makes it work for just about everyone I think. Nicely done! I’ll subscribe.