AOL has been in a state of flux for awhile now, attempting to keep its brand alive with mergers and new platforms. But nothing’s been able to stick, and profits and subscriptions haven’t been anything to brag to investors about. This is enough cause for speculation regarding a sale or yet another HuffPo sized merger – especially given AdWeek’s (the site shares a building with AOL) inside scoop that AOL is meeting with a prestigious M&A team.
According to the report, AOL is working with Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz as well as Allen & Company LLC. Both of these firms are infamously attached to large mergers and acquisition dealings, and the retainer coupled with AOL’s public missteps is enough to raise a few eyebrows, despite any denials. “There is no deal on the table, no proposed deal…” CEO Tim Armstrong says. “…Our strategy hasn’t changed and we are moving faster than ever on it.” Of course, this means little more than that at the moment, no offer has been made or worth considering quite yet.
If the name Lipton sounds familiar, that’s because he’s the attorney behind the “poison pill” defense. It’s a tactic use by a business’ board to stop a hostile takeover of the company. The firm is behind some of the most well-known M&A litigations, including those from AT&T and JP Morgan Chase.
An AOL insider tells AdWeek that the move is purely for show in order to raise the company’s stock worth—which might be working. AOL stock rose 8.8 percent yesterday afternoon, and it makes it look like a more valuable asset to potential buyers. We could be looking at the very beginnings of a buyout, spinoff, or break-up of one of Internet media’s veterans. The real question is who the interested parties might be.
Considering that AOL’s stock is trading incredibly low, it’s a fairly attractive option for some companies. A merger with Yahoo, a fellow struggling former Internet titan, is a rumor that began some three years ago and has never quite died. What could also attract buyers is the fact that AOL parts are worth more than its sum. Properties like Advertising.com, TechCrunch, MapQuest, and Moviefone could net some tempting offers. Even Patch (which is almost undeniably broken) might be a good fit elsewhere. At the moment, closing Patch would actually save AOL some serious money and boost it into being profitable – of course, that’s only a short-term fix.
Whatever the exact outcome, retaining these firms likely means big change is heading to AOL in the near future.