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AOL CEO apologizes for firing employee during a conference call with 1,000 people

Posted by Anush Elbakyan, Boston.com Staff  August 13, 2013 06:00 PM

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The CEO of AOL didn't put up with an employee who took his picture while he was on a massive conference call with members of the company’s local news site Patch, which is undergoing drastic cutbacks and layoffs.

Update: AOL chief executive Tim Armstrong issued an apology to his employees on Tuesday. In the statement, Armstrong acknowledged that he "acted too quickly" and "learned a tremendous lesson." He began his statement by saying:

I am writing you to acknowledge the mistake I made last Friday during the Patch all-hands meeting when I publicly fired Abel Lenz. It was an emotional response at the start of a difficult discussion dealing with many people’s careers and livelihoods. I am the CEO and leader of the organization, and I take that responsibility seriously. We talk a lot about accountability and I am accountable for the way I handled the situation, and at a human level it was unfair to Abel. I’ve communicated to him directly and apologized for the way the matter was handled at the meeting.

On Friday, Armstrong fired Lenz, the creative director at AOL Patch.com, after he tried to take his photograph during a conference call that was meant to go over the upcoming layoffs and changes at Patch.

As heard in a recording, obtained by media news blogger Jim Romenesko, of the Aug. 9 conference call, Armstrong started the conference call by saying:

There’s a couple of things I want you guys to realize and really think about and sink in, and if it doesn’t sink in and you don’t believe what I’m about to say, I’m going to ask you to leave Patch.

Two minutes into the recording, Armstrong gave a brief warning to Lenz and then fired him.

“Abel, put that camera down, right now. Abel, you’re fired. Out.”

Armstrong also said in his recent statement that "Abel had been told previously not to record a confidential meeting, and he repeated that behavior on Friday, which drove my actions." However, Business Insider earlier reported that Lenz always took photographs of meetings to post on Patch's internal sites.

Listen to the full audio recording from the conference call:

Lenz later tweeted:

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