Michael Arrington broke his pseudo-silence on the controversy surrounding his starting an AOL-backed venture fund and offered his thoughts for the future of TechCrunch on Tuesday afternoon. In a blog post entitled "Editorial Independence," Arrington confirms that AOL has made "multiple conflicting statements" about CrunchFund and says TechCrunch has proposed two possible outcomes:
1. 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.
2. Sell TechCrunch back to the original shareholders.
AOL bought TechCrunch almost exactly a year ago for $25 million, and Kara Swisher reports that Arrington doesn't have the money to buy it back for the same price. "Sources said Arrington needs funding to do so--irony alert!--and told them over the weekend that he planned to use his blogging bully pulpit to force AOL into giving up the site," says Swisher. "'It is at a stalemate, so this is the result,' said one person with knowledge of the effort by Arrington to take back his baby."
The alternative of staying at AOL but declaring editorial independence from The Huffington Post also raises some eyebrows. Comment from AOL head of content Arianna Huffington was conspicuously missing in the first reports, leading some to wonder if she had been kept in the dark about CrunchFund and TechCrunch's future. Thursday night she boldly declared that Arrington was not an AOL employee. "Michael has stepped down and is no longer on the editorial payroll effective immediately," she told The Times.
In the same article, Arrington sounded irked when asked about his status. "I have no idea what AOL’s final position on this will be," he said. "I look forward to hearing it. I'll respond once Arianna has made her last statement." Which has apparently happened.