The founder of popular tech site TechCrunch has called on its owner AOL to either give it back its “editorial independence” or sell it to its original shareholders.
In a blog post for the site, Michael Arrington says that he will walk away from the business if AOL does not find a solution to the dispute.
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Last week, it was revealed that Arrington was launching a $20 million start-up investment vehicle called CrunchFund. $10 million of the funding is coming from AOL.
The move led to criticism that Arrington was committing a conflict of interest by heading a site that writes about start-ups while investing in them at the same time. He has said that he will stand down as editor of the site.
In a blog post published yesterday, Arrington says: “My employment relationship with TechCrunch and AOL is not the core issue.”
“The only issue being discussed at this point, the only issue that matters, is TechCrunch editorial independence and self-determination. Regardless of my role, if any, going forward.”
“I believe that AOL should be held to their promise when they acquired us to give TechCrunch complete editorial independence.”
“As of late last week TechCrunch no longer has editorial independence. Some argue that the circumstances demanded it. I disagree. Editorial independence was never supposed to be an easy thing for AOL to give us. But it was never meaningful if it shatters the first time it is put to the test.”
Arrington pointedly mentions another AOL acquisition, the Huffington Post, in his post. The site’s founder, Adriana Huffington, has been given an editorial overseeing role within the AOL group.
Arrington says the two options given to AOL are: “Reaffirmation of the editorial independence promised at the time of acquisition.”
“Given the current circumstances, that means autonomy from Huffington Post, unfettered editorial independence and a blanket right to editorial self-determination. To put it simply, TechCrunch would stay with AOL but would be independent of the Huffington Post.”
“Or sell TechCrunch back to the original shareholders.
“If AOL cannot accept either of these options, and no other creative solution can be found, I cannot be a part of TechCrunch going forward.”
The row comes as TechCrunch unveiled plans to expand its popular start-up event Disrupt to China – the first time it will take place outside the US.
The event, held from October 28, will allow early-stage ventures to pitch for up to $50,000 in funding in a competition called the Startup Battlefield.