SHAKING THE TIN CAN FOR ARIANNA
I was stunned to learn the other day that Arianna Huffington, the founding mother of HuffPo, pocketed only $21 million from her $315 merger with AOL, as per Smoking Gun’s leak of merger agreement legal papers (10/15/13).
21 million! Why, that’s less than she got for her divorce settlement from Michael Huffington, without whom HuffPo wouldn’t have been possible.
That number was $25 million, as it was said, to keep her mouth shut, smile and look like a senator’s wife-to-be during Mikey’s California senatorial campaign, which had enough problems without her discussing their married life. The quote from Huffington, the man, I will always remember, during the senatorial campaign, a reporter asked, “Why didn’t you pay the California state income tax?” And he smartly replied, “Why should I pay it? –I live in Texas.”
21 million? All of her fans thought her cut from 315 million was at least 100 million.
21! Million! That’s walking around money in Santa Monica.
The poor woman! Why, she has two kids in college (Yale). Her latest book, titled “Third World”–it’s not about the plight of downtrodden Internet bloggers trying to survive on wages paid by HuffPo and other web sites of that ilk – did not sell well.
A Telethon to help Arianna through these difficult times would not be inappropriate. I would be willing to donate some of my extra food stamps to the relief effort.
Still you have to admire a woman with only $25 million in her Judith Lieber purse whose little fish of a web site managed to swallow the AOL whale. Who knows the name of her AOL partner today? (Tim Armstrong-- I looked it up on Google), while she is a household word on TV cable networks, like Viagra.
Ari, as her fans call her, is our most important media mogulette since Frances Lear, who took a $100 million divorce settlement from Norman (“All in the Family”) Lear and founded “Lear’s, the women’s magazine.”
Like another Greek, Midas, Ari has been able to turn everything she touches into gold. Her most amazing achievement has been starting a revolution in media by underpaying writers even more seriously than sweat shop operators in Haiti, whose workers are currently striking for higher wages.
Traditionally, all bosses exploit their workers. Queen Midas took it to a higher level, being a leader in paying her workers “nada,” as they say in Guatemala and other Third World countries.
By no means is she the first person to discover the principle of how to keep costs low. Some of the early Kitmans were in the group of 10,000 construction workers employed by Pharaoh Menkaure in the building of those works of art, the Giza Pyramids, 12 miles outside of downtown Cairo.
As I’ve mentioned before (See “Throw Another Blog on the Fire,” Parts I-IX), I was one of the founding 989 writers who contributed to the building of Queen Midas’ monumental site, despite the below-the-poverty-level wages (zero). The mistake I made, as my financial adviser, Roger Ailes of the Fox Business Network, explained, was not telling Arianna I will also pick lettuce. “She pays those people.” However, he warned, there’s some chance she’d want you to pay them for the right to write for nothing.”
I didn’t buy into the HuffPo dialectic (Each according to his ability; each according to willingness not to get paid.) Still I bear no grudges against Queen Midas.
I worry about her being stuck in the slow lane these days. What has she done lately, people are asking? She could be the next Tina Brown, in danger of becoming extinct after the cock-up she made of Newsweek/Daily Beast.
Should Arianna ever have a midlife crisis, I have some advice.
The sickest area of media these days is newspapers. Print’s biggest economic problem is not loss of advertising so much as the high cost of content. She could improve newspaper bottom lines by applying her success formula to the newspaper industry. News executives are always talking about the need for a free press.
Before Arianna’s name is added to the endangered species list, next to Tina Brown’s, I suggest she make a bid for the LA Times that is said to be on the market. I’m sure a lot of Internet plantation workers will be happy to accept the same Arianna pay package, and write for a newspaper. The exposure is so much better.
Nov. 18, 2013