Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

AOL Mulls Director Choices for New Board of Spinoff


It’s not often these days that you get any kind of public offering in the market for tech companies–so a lot of people in Silicon Valley and elsewhere are looking at the fall spinoff of AOL very carefully.

That’s because, even though AOL is widely considered to be an also-ran by Silicon Valley (same as it ever was, actually, even at the height of its power in the late 1990s), many are very interested in serving on its board.

According to many sources, exactly who will be on what will likely be a 10-12 member board of directors for the company is up for grabs, once it decouples from owner Time Warner (TWX).

Thus, AOL, with Time Warner’s top execs’ involvement, sources said, has compiled a list of about 70 possible candidates–picked, suggested and self-nominated–and is now proceeding to vet them and begin the process of asking people to serve.

It should not be a tough sell. After all, despite its recent struggles, AOL remains one of the major Internet sites, with massive traffic, several well-known products and a large advertising business.

In addition, people seem inclined to see what kind of overhaul new CEO and Chairman Tim Armstrong can pull off and whether the former Google (GOOG) exec can work some magic.

He’s been formulating plans for what stays and what goes in the company as he tries to shine up the apple–or put lipstick on the pig, depending on your perspective–for investor consumption.

That includes keeping the access business, which many thought would be sold off, and putting many of the companies it has recently acquired–including its pricey Bebo social networking site–in a separate ventures unit, which will try to attract outside investment or sell off assets.

The strategy will focus AOL on several key areas, including media, local, “scaled” advertising and communications.


The jury is out on how successful Armstrong will be at innovating at AOL. But with almost zero IPO action and little prospect of any in the near future, it’s about the only such game in town as it moves to what is likely to be an October spinoff.

To help Armstrong sort through the choices, BoomTown is now compiling a suggestion list of fancy names I would recommend, and will do another post on that next, along with a general idea of what stays and what goes.

Until then, here are the broad outlines of what AOL needs to look for in a board:

One media mogul, one consumer electronics exec, one entrepreneur, one publishing exec, one Time Warner exec, one social networking exec, one advertising exec, one entertainment/Hollywood exec, one telecom/mobile exec, one consumer brand exec, one Internet mogul, and, of course, Armstrong.

And, as a definite requirement, given that there are way too many on way too many Internet company boards: No venture capitalists need apply.