When Tim Armstrong took over AOL Inc., it was running on fumes from its passé dial-up business and pretty much written off as done. Then Google Inc.'s former top ad executive spent more than $1 billion on acquisitions to turn it into an online media powerhouse and digital advertising pioneer.
On Tuesday, six years to the day that he became AOL's chief executive officer, Mr. Armstrong agreed to sell the company to Verizon Communications Inc. in a deal valued at $4.4 billion.
Now what? Brian Wieser, a Pivotal Research Group analyst, said it was hard to predict how long Mr. Armstrong, 44, would remain at Verizon after the sale closes. "It depends," Wieser said. "Does he think he's going to run the whole company?"
Verizon, the largest U.S. wireless provider, will pay $50 a share -- a 17% premium over AOL's price Monday -- and the companies said Mr. Armstrong will continue to lead AOL's operations. They didn't put a time frame on it, but Mr. Armstrong said in an interview that he'd stay for more than three years.
"I wouldn't have committed to the deal if I wasn't committed to Verizon," he said, dismissing suggestions he'd ever want to run the telecommunications company.
He isn't likely to stick around any longer than he has to "unless there's a viable path" to the top job, said Paul Sweeney, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. "He's not going to be one of the minions," Mr. Sweeney said. "He's been a successful CEO, and now it's time to step up to a $30, $40, $50 billion company."
AOL is far from that: Its market capitalization is $3.96 billion. On Dec. 10, 2009, the first day it traded on the New York Stock Exchange, it was worth $2.49 billion. The stock's gone up about 80% since, trailing the Standard