It's hard to imagine The Huffington Post without Arianna Huffington, the Greece-born media entrepreneur who co-founded the publication in 2005 and embodies it in almost every way. But it will become a reality.
In a memo Thursday morning, Ms. Huffington announced that she's giving up her role as editor-in-chief to focus on a new wellness-focused company she is starting called Thrive Global.
"This has been a very difficult decision, but in many ways an inevitable one, given my commitment to building Thrive into a company that has a global impact on how we work and live," she wrote to staff in the memo, which was provided to Ad Age. "Building something from scratch doesn't become easier or less challenging just because you've done it before. There is only one way to do it: with your full attention and all your heart."
In June 2015, when it was announced that Verizon would purchase Huffington Post parent company AOL, there were murmurs about Ms. Huffington's future at the company. Would she remain? When she renewed her contract, to run through 2019, those questions seemed to be answered.
Her departure comes at a very interesting time for the company, and seems to signal a changing of the guard. One of her top lieutenants, Roy Sekoff, left the company at the end of last year. Mr. Sekoff was seen as Ms. Huffington's right-hand man, and he had been with the company since the beginning.
In August 2015, The Huffington Post got a new CEO in Jared Grusd, a former Spotify executive. But, he's far less visible than media executives like New York Times chief executive Mark Thompson, or Vox Media executive Jim Bankoff. While Mr. Grusd is tasked with leading the business, it is still Ms. Huffington who is seen as its steward. When she officially leaves the company, that will change, perhaps thrusting Mr. Grusd into more of a starring role.
While traffic is no longer seen as the primary bellwether of a media company's health, it's worth noting that The Huffington Post is no longer at the levels it once achieved. In June 2016, The Huffington Post brought in approximately 75 million U.S. multiplatform unique visitors, down from nearly 92 million in June 2015.
In June of this year, Bloomberg reported that Ms. Huffington would launch a new media venture pegged to her book, Thrive, which advocates for work/life balance and copious amounts of sleep. The plan was for Ms. Huffington to do both, to continue leading The Huffington Post while launching the venture, but, she wrote in the memo, it became clear to her that she wouldn't be able to do so.
When asked about Ms. Huffington's new business, a Huffington Post spokesperson told Ad Age back in June that "Arianna will not be doing any press until launch."
Separately Thursday, Thrive Global was officially announced. "Thrive Global is a corporate and consumer well-being and productivity platform," according to a press release. "It provides trainings, seminars, e-courses, coaching, and ongoing support based on the latest scientific findings from experts in the fields of neuroscience, psychology, productivity, sports, and sleep. Thrive Global's approach is extremely practical and based on the principle of micro-steps so that people can more easily go from knowing what's best for them to actually doing it."
Kenneth Lerer, who co-founded The Huffington Post, serves as managing partner of Lerer Hippeau Ventures, which led a Series A funding round for Thrive Global.