Armstrong was hired from Google (GOOG) in early 2009, after he had founded a set of hyper-local sites called Patch that he has tried to turn into a national news network, without success, ever since. Since the company returned to the public market as a Time Warner (TWX) spinoff in late 2009, its value has more than doubled.

Armstrong delivered additional value to AOL shareholders with a 2012 patent sale to Microsoft (MSFT) that brought in more than $1 billion and delivered shareholders a $5.15 per share special dividend.

By selling a controlling interest in Patch to an investment group, Hale Global, Armstrong ended a string of losses that were hurting the company. Buying Adap.Tv for $405 million gave the company a leadership position in Web video advertising.

Instead, all anyone could talk about last week was the distressed baby comment, especially after the mother of one of the babies, Deanna Fei, took to Slate to respond, describing the tortures of her premature infant in detail and providing a picture of said infant, now an apparently happy toddler.

What should have been a corporate highlight, a stock price of more than $51 on Thursday after AOL reported solid results, has instead turned into a corporate low, with AOL seen as a national laughingstock and the shares were recently trading at $46.11. That's a loss of more than $300 million in market cap in two days, entirely off bad publicity, and entirely avoidable.

Or, if you prefer, more than 300 distressed babies.

At the time of publication the author owned shares in GOOG

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

 

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