I am not pretending to know everything about this issue. All I know is that Michael Arrington was working with AOL on creating the “Crunch Fund”. Some other caught wind and questioned if Arrington’s editorial status at TechCrunch could be an issue. Now, we have a fight between Michael Arrington and Ariana Huffington – who wants Michael to step down.
Arrington has posted an article asking to sell TechCrunch back to shareholders. This would take TechCrunch out of AOL’s hands and things might go back to some sort of normalcy. However, people would still question if Arrington should be EIC.
It’s a very dramatic time for the company. What’s worse: we could see one of these situations result from this weekend:
Situation 1: Arrington Fired
If that happens, you might see TechCrunch staff walk. Unless they have some contractual clause that causes them not to be able to write for anyone else, the staff could stage a protest and the site would fall into shambles. The TC crew would start a new venture (which you are all welcome to write at Geekazine, BTW).
Situation 2: Arringtion is re-instated EIC until an amicable solution is found
I think we’re past this option, but if it does happen, then AOL would still have the publication, Crunch Fund can still exist and Arrington would have say in who his replacement would be. Staff would stay put for the time being. I would guess the jump ship phase would start to happen no matter what.
Situation 3: Shareholders buy back Tech Crunch
If that is the case, TechCrunch would become an independent entity. By going back to square 1, they would have to instantly find new investors to keep TC and all child programs running. I have no doubt that TechCrunch would get back on their feet, but it would be a 6 month set-back.
What Could Happen at TechCrunch Disrupt?
As you may know, I am heading to TechCrunch Disrupt with Adria Richards next week. With this news, I am a little concerned. If Arrington leaves and his staff follows, then Tech Crunch Disrupt will not have the people to pull off the event. That would mean a cancellation.
Since my tickets are non-refundable, that means I might be going to San Francisco for an unscheduled vacation. Not that we couldn’t find companies to interview, it’s just that we’d be doing some more groundwork.
If the event does happen, I would wonder if any startups would show loyalty to the event. After all, if Arrington is not there, startups might lose confidence in this show. They might just simply not show up. In the end of it all, why would you set up a booth in a funeral home (that is, unless you sell funeral supplies)?
Future of TechCrunch
I would say, unless the shareholders get to buy TechCrunch back, it will fall apart. AOL will dissolve it into something else eventually and Arrington will start something else. If the buyback capital is raised, then TechCrunch will take 6 months to get back to where they are now. If TC goes independent, Arrington should give up the Editor in Chief postition to someone else and become Chairman of the Board (just like that Steve Jobs character). But of course, the EIC is their decision.
As the situation changes, we’ll keep you abreast in San Francisco.