Tim Armstrong apologizes for publicly firing Abel Lenz

“I acted too quickly and I learned a tremendous lesson and I wanted you to hear that directly from me,” AOL’s CEO Tim Armstrong writes in a note to staffers. He says he apologized to Lenz, who he says he’d spoken to previously about not recording confidential meetings.

The email’s subject line is “Accountability starts with me.”

Jim Romenesko published audio of the call on Saturday.

AOLers -

I am writing you to acknowledge the mistake I made last Friday during the Patch all-hands meeting when I publicly fired Abel Lenz. It was an emotional response at the start of a difficult discussion dealing with many people’s careers and livelihoods. I am the CEO and leader of the organization, and I take that responsibility seriously. We talk a lot about accountability and I am accountable for the way I handled the situation, and at a human level it was unfair to Abel. I’ve communicated to him directly and apologized for the way the matter was handled at the meeting.

My action was driven by the desire to openly communicate with over a thousand Patch employees across the US. The meeting on Friday was the second all-hands we had run that week and people came to Friday’s meeting knowing we would be openly discussing some of the potential changes needed at Patch. As you know, I am a firm believer in open meetings, open Q&A, and this level of transparency requires trust across AOL. Internal meetings of a confidential nature should not be filmed or recorded so that our employees can feel free to discuss all topics openly. Abel had been told previously not to record a confidential meeting, and he repeated that behavior on Friday, which drove my actions.

We have been through many difficult situations in turning around AOL and I have done my best to make the best decisions in the long-term interest of the employees and the company. On Friday I acted too quickly and I learned a tremendous lesson and I wanted you to hear that directly from me.

We have tough decisions and work to do on Patch, but we’re doing them thoughtfully and as openly as we can. At AOL, we had strong earnings last week and we’re adding one of the best companies in the world to the team. AOL is in a great position, and we’ll keep moving forward. – TA

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  • JH

    This guy is not capable of running a company.

  • KellyBelly

    So does the poor guy get to keep his job? Not that he would want to work for an asshole boss, but “an emotional response” seems like an unfair reason to fire someone. I hope Lenz pushes back and gets a huge severance.

  • vinyldisciple

    When does he get to the part about the “tremendous lesson” that he learned?

  • Johnson

    So completely unprofessional I’m finding it hard to put it into words without being offensive.

  • Lou Alexander

    This is not an apology. It is at best and explanation and with the amount of self justification it contains is probably less than that.

  • Edward Ericson Jr

    “Lenz, you have failed me….” (pulls lever next to chair)