The AOL CEO who fired a Patch employee while on a conference call to 1,000 other employees has publicly apologized for the incident. AOL CEO Tim Johnson fired Patch creative director Abel Lenz during a conference call on Friday. The exchange was recorded and quickly uploaded to SoundCloud where thousands flocked to hear Johnson tell Lenz "Abel put that camera down right now. Abel, you're fired. Out."
We can never know if it was the avalanche of public shame that forced Tim Johnson's apology, but the AOL CEO fired off an e-mail to Patch.com employees today in order to set the PR ... we mean record ... straight.
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.
My action was driven by the desire to openly communicate with over a thousand Patch employees across the US. The meeting on Friday was the second all-hands we had run that week and people came to Friday's meeting knowing we would be openly discussing some of the potential changes needed at Patch. As you know, I am a firm believer in open meetings, open Q&A, and this level of transparency requires trust across AOL. Internal meetings of a confidential nature should not be filmed or recorded so that our employees can feel free to discuss all topics openly. Abel had been told previously not to record a confidential meeting, and he repeated that behavior on Friday, which drove my actions.
We have been through many difficult situations in turning around AOL and I have done my best to make the best decisions in the long-term interest of the employees and the company. On Friday I acted too quickly and I learned a tremendous lesson and I wanted you to hear that directly from me.
We have tough decisions and work to do on Patch, but we're doing them thoughtfully and as openly as we can. At AOL, we had strong earnings last week and we're adding one of the best companies in the world to the team. AOL is in a great position, and we'll keep moving forward. - TA
Odds are the AOL CEO will fire a lot more people in the coming weeks. When the AOL CEO wasn't firing employees during the call, Johnson was discussing the fate of some 400 Patch.com sites that are on the chopping block as AOL takes harsh steps towards steering the hyper-local news project into profitability.
Also, when the AOL CEO fires you, you stay fired. Business Insider reports that, even after the gaffe was leaked and judgment rendered in the court of public opinion, Johnson did not reverse his decision to fire Lenz. According to insider sources, Lenz was being released because his Patch 2.0 design was a failure in Johnson's eyes.
For his part, Lenz has taken the high ground after the AOL CEO fired him.
@romenesko I appreciate the interest Jim, but I have nothing to share. Go Patch!
— Abel Lenz (@lenzabel) August 9, 2013