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article imageAOL's Armstrong fires employee during conference call

By Layne Weiss     Aug 12, 2013 in Technology
New York - In recent days, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong has confirmed "hundreds" of layoffs at Patch, but during a conference call he shockingly fired an employee who tried to take a picture of him.
Armstrong held the conference call with Patch editors to explain that he would shut down or find partners for 400 Patch sites, Tech Crunch reports. He also reassured the staff, telling them not to worry, especially about what they "read in the press."
He also however, told the Patch "non-believers" or non-users to get out of the company now because there is no room for "equivocation in turning the effort around."
Several minutes into the call, an employee who has been identified as Abel Lenz, Patch's Creative Director, reportedly tried to take a picture of Armstrong.
"Abel, put that camera down. You're fired," Armstrong said on the spot. You can listen to Armstrong's explanation of the changes at Patch as well as the firing," here.
As if nothing happened, Armstrong went back to discussing the situation at Patch.
A few minutes later, Armstrong explained the firing. "The reason I fired Abel is I don't want anyone taking pictures of this meeting."
According to Business Insider, Armstrong likened it to taking pictures in a sports team's locker room, saying he couldn't have his staff "giving the game plan away."
Business Insider felt the situation was a bit sketchy and decided to investigate further. For instance, the way the recording sounds it's as if Armstrong didn't even give Lenz a chance to put his camera down before firing him. The whole thing seemed very rushed. Also, according to a report Business Insider posted Monday, Lenz would always take pictures of major speakers during conference calls and then post the images to Patch's internal website, so the roughly thousand remote workers could view them. So, taking a picture of Armstrong during this meeting wasn't as unusual as Armstrong made it sound.
Perhaps Armstrong had ulterior motives for firing Abel. Right after the sudden firing, Armstrong went onto say some pretty awful things about Patch 2.0, Abel Lenz's biggest project for the company.
Abel Lenz was brought into Patch from another part of AOL in 2012 to spearhead the Patch 2.0 redesign. It is unclear whether he was still head of the Patch 2.0 team.
It would seem as if Armstrong had initially intended to fire Lenz because he didn't like the work he had done with Patch 2.0. He may have used the picture-taking as a cover-up.
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