Hale Global, a little known turnaround firm, thinks it can run Patch better than AOL could. And it will have the authority to push AOL completely out of the picture under a new partnership agreement announced today.
In a release announcing a joint venture on Patch between the two companies, it was clear which one would be calling the shots: "Under the terms of the agreement," the release said, "AOL will contribute Patch into a new limited liability company, which will be operated and majority owned by Hale Global."
A source with knowledge of the agreement told Ad Age that AOL could feasibly end up with no role at all. Hale, the source said, will be completely in the driver seat from an operational standpoint. That means the company will have to decide whether to retain Patch's editorial team and what to do with its ad sales team.
As for the editorial team, signs point it will be de-emphasized, if not dissolved. "The companies are committed to re-launching Patch as an efficient platform that allows citizens and businesses to create and share locally-themed news and content," the release said. The role reporters and editors might play in that effort was not mentioned.
The announcement marks the last significant chapter in AOL's Patch saga, an embarrassing slog defined by the steady stream of bad news that leaked from its corridors. The tension cast a shadow over AOL, drawing national attention when Mr. Armstrong fired Patch's creative director at the start of a Patch-wide conference call last year.
The terms of the deal were not disclosed. Which is fitting because the offloading of Patch, not whether money changed hands, is what mattered for AOL.