NEW YORK (
) -- I've spent a lot of time looking at
recently as a potential long. People ask me why -- a lot. The amount of people who have completely given up on AOL is actually rather remarkable.
was the most hated tech company in the world, with perhaps the most Dilbert-like dysfunctional organizational culture. It's not. AOL beats them by a country mile.
has reported there will be a big "come-to-Jesus" (or "come-to-Tim-or-Arianna" if you prefer) meeting this week in New York with their top 100 operating executives to discuss the company's future.
Here's the money quote from that article:
This year, the true believers in attendance will tell Tim Armstrong that they are starting to lose faith.
"A lot of people are looking at
our stock price and saying 'what is the strategy in 2012?' Obviously things aren't working out right now," says one executive who is attending the meeting.
This AOL source wants clarification on a number of major topics.
"I truly don't know what we're about right now," this source says.
It's very easy to find former AOL execs to talk to these days about how things are going at the company. Because they're "former," you have to take everything they say with a grain of salt. However, even for this type of group, the anger and disdain for the company is running extremely high.
One ex-executive told me that "ethnic cleansing" within the company is alive and rampant. I asked him what he meant and he talked about how all the old-time AOLers (pre-Tim) are paranoid about the
people and Huffington Post people who've joined recently. The AOLers dislike the Googlers and HuffPo because both think they're super-smart. Each group assumes others like them are smartest while everyone else is ready to knife you in the back as soon as you turn their back to them in a dark alley.
Another ex-AOL employee referred to a practice of "sniper firings." This, it was explained to me, was when you're a high-priced executive who hasn't been delivering enough revenue in your group and there's pressure from the board to cut costs. In those cases, you're shown the door. Jeff Levick and Brad Garlinghouse both fall into this category. As I've been told, this wasn't a case of Tim not having Brad's product vision that he'd originally shared when Brad came on board. This was about cutting costs.
I've also written about dynamics between Tim Armstrong and Arianna Huffington, saying that -- long-term -- the two can't just remain there together.
My discussions with many others seems to show agreement with that statement, although people are unclear about the logical next step. Arianna is well-liked by many but seen as an in-the-weeds leader who can't delegate and doesn't have solid folks like Eric Hippeau and Greg Coleman around her anymore.
Tim Armstrong is very well-liked by many AOL investors and seen as "likeable" by many inside AOL, but people do appear to be tired of waiting for a yet-to-transpire turnaround that have been promised to them so many times.
There are no silver bullets to fix AOL, but there's clearly plenty of value that's been accumulated there over the years.
"Is it fixable?" I have asked several over the last few months. I would say that 90% have said "no."
Whether that's true or not, I'm not yet sure.
It will be interesting to see what emerges from this week's "off-site." Tim seems to be paranoid of calling any radical internal change a "re-org" for fear of setting off re-org fatigue among the rank-and-file. I'm sure the smart Google guys will come up with some new fancy name for it.
At the time of publication, Jackson was long Yahoo!
Eric Jackson is founder and president of Ironfire Capital and the general partner and investment manager of Ironfire Capital US Fund LP and Ironfire Capital International Fund, Ltd. You can follow Jackson on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ericjackson or @ericjackson