Some seem to hope that it's an early April Fool's Joke, but the truth came out on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt today: AOL is acquiring TechCrunch.
If you aren't at TechCrunch Disrupt today in San Francisco, you can still get the scoop on what's happening -- at least what TechCrunch and AOL want you to know. Announced on stage, TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington told the crowd that that TechCrunch Inc. would be bought by AOL.
TechCrunch and all of its associated web properties and conferences, including CrunchBase, TechCrunch TV, the Disrupt series and the Crunchies, will join the AOL Technology Network alongside Engadget, AOL's existing webblog dedicated to gadgets and consumer electronics. According to both companies, TechCrunch will retain editorial independence, although if you read through the comments on the announcement, many wonder if this will actually be true.
Michael Arrington, had this to say about the deal:
Tim Armstrong and his team have an exciting vision for the future of AOL as a global leader in creating and delivering world-class content to consumers, be it through original content creation, partnerships or acquisitions. I look forward to working with everyone at AOL as we build on our reputation for independent tech journalism and continue to set the agenda for insight, reviews and collaborative discussion about the future of the technology industry.”
How Much is the Deal?
What Arrington didn't say, and some are calling him out on it, is how much he sold the company for. Apparently price is something Arrington pushes for when covering vendors on the TechCrunch website, so it only makes sense to many that he divulge the same information.
While not official, The Business Insider blog is saying that their sources put the deal at US$ 25 million. A recent update on the blog states that CNBC was told the sale price was US$ 40. Others agree that the higher number sounds more reasonable, Robert Scoble says,
There is no way @arrington would sell for less than @Jason sold to AOL for ($25 million). So I am guessing it around $40 mill #tcdisrupt
What is TechCrunch Without Arrington?
Not everyone thinks the deal is all that great. It was said that part of the deal included Michael Arrington staying on board, at least for a time. But others don't believe that TechCrunch will fall apart if Arrington leaves because TechCrunch's CEO Heather Harde will still be there.
Calacanis also makes that point that AOL could have easily built their own TechCrunch in 18 months by simply hiring 3 of TechCrunch's top writers for US$ 150k.
When Michael Arrington polled the crowd at TechCrunch Disrupt on whether he should do the deal, the majority voted against it. He signed the papers in front of everyone anyway.
Does this deal spell the end of TechCrunch as we all know it? How long with "editorial independence" last? How long with Michael Arrington last? Time will tell.