AOL buys Techcrunch

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Online portal AOL has agreed to acquire technology news outlet TechCrunch for an undisclosed amount. TechCrunch—founded by the ever-controversial Michael Arrington—operates a portfolio of Web sites centered on technology news; the company also operates industry events, such as the “Crunchies” and the TechCrunch Disrupt event currently taking place in San Francisco, where the acquisition announcement was disclosed.

AOL plans to integrate TechCrunch content offerings into its AOL network of sites and technology properties, which also includes the popular Engadget, Switched, and TUAW (The Unofficial Apple Weblog). TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington says he looks forward to working with everyone at AOL, and some reports have Arrington bound to AOL for three years as a provision of the deal. AOL and TechCrunch have not outlined a role for Arrington once the acquisition is complete.

“TechCrunch and its team will be an outstanding addition to the high-quality content on the AOL Technology Network,” said AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, in a statement, “which is now a must-buy for advertisers seeking to associate their brands with leading technology content and its audience.”

For AOL, the deal seems to be about eyeballs: adding TechCrunch and its traffic to the AOL stable of content offerings is a way to increase the number of users looking at AOL content, and thus the number and price of advertisements AOL can sell alongside that content. However, while AOL CEO Tim Armstrong lauds TechCrunch for its “reputation for top-class journalism,” TechCrunch has long been a controversial presence in online technology news: the site famously refuses to honor non-disclosure agreements and has been roundly criticized for publishing inaccurate, accusatory, and inflammatory information. Founder Mark Arrington was also involved in the development of the JooJoo tablet—currently the subject of litigation between TechCrunch and Fusion Garage.

TechCrunch will remain in is San Francisco headquarters as fully-owned subsidiary of AOL.

Update: Business Insider is putting the value of the acquisition in the $25–40 million range, with the possibility that $25 million was cash up front, with another $15 million as a possible performance-related earn-out.