COO Artie Minson Could Exit Aol, Patch Issues To Blame?

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Aol Chief Operating Officer Arthur “Artie” Minson could be departing the company soon, we’re hearing, possibly over how the company has been handling hyperlocal news site Patch.

A spokesperson declined to comment for this story, Minson hasn’t returned my call, and our sources say that it’s not a done deal. Bloomberg was the first to report on the news, only because they hit publish a little before us.

Minson was promoted to the COO job in June of last year as part of a larger reorganization, moving over from his three-year stint as CFO. His official bio is basically a big list of positions that he’s held at either Aol or Time Warner (hey, remember Aol-Time Warner?) going back to 2004. In his current position, he’s been responsible for leading the company’s three business units — the membership group, the brand group (which TechCrunch is a part of) and Aol Networks.

One explanation we’ve heard for Minson’s departure is that Aol is trying to boost the numbers for Patch by lumping in traffic and revenue from the Huffington Post’s local sites. Patch is still unprofitable and missed its sales target in Aol’s most recent earnings report. Minson was supposedly unwilling to go along with that plan, which is why he’s leaving. None of this has been officially confirmed.

The departure of executives like Brad Garlinghouse from Aol spurred a concerned investor letter back in 2011. The letter also mentioned the departure of Michael Arrington and Heather Harde from TechCrunch. Then exactly one year ago, it announced a few more departures, including CTO Alex Gounares.

Whatever happens with Minson, other exec changes are also happening. Aol is also looking to bring in a new CEO for the content brands division, according to a report from Kara Swisher out today.

Update: In my initial post, I didn’t include in any discussion of Patch’s actual traffic. To remedy that, I asked comScore for its most recent data. The company says that the Patch Network as a whole (which includes HuffPo Local, Aol Weather, and Aol Yellowpages) grew 17.8 percent between January 2012 and the same month in 2013, from 17.4 million unique visitors to 20.5 million. If you look at Patch.com specifically, uniques were up 29 percent, from 10.5 million to 13.5 million.

Put another way: Patch.com is actually growing more quickly than the network as a whole, though obviously the network’s total reach is larger.