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Interview: Tim Armstrong, Chairman And CEO, AOL: 'Job #1 Is To Focus On The Core Business'

imagepaidContent spoke with Tim Armstrong soon after the Google (NSDQ: GOOG) ad vet was announced as the new chairman and CEO of AOL (NYSE: TWX), replacing Randy Falco. One of the biggest questions: how will he accomplish finding the optimal structure for AOL that is part of his mandate from Time Warner Chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes and optimizing AOL itself at the same time? “I think job #1 is focus on the core business and make the core business stronger.” That will bring shareholder value. As for that optimal structure, Armstrong said, “AOL can certainly stand on its own” but he didn’t open or shut any particular doors.

Armstrong said the job discussions took place over the last couple of weeks. Why now? For AOL, Armstrong says, “The industry is changing very rapidly and I think that’s creating very large opportunities. AOL has a globally recognized brand and I think there’s a great opportunity for AOL to play a big role in the future of the transition to digital media.. … I’ve worked very closely with Time Warner and AOL over the years and it was a nice match of what they needed and something that was interesting for me to tackle.” Platform-A and more after the jump.

Armstrong knows he comes to the Time Warner unit at a tough time. In addition to the rough economy, AOL is in the midst of layoffs, Platform-A is still going through its latest shakeup and overall, the company is still adapting to the latest structural overhaul. What does he bring with him as a digital exec? Among other things, a sense of scale and understanding of the internet — and that experience of working with the various employee teams. But given the economy, does he think he can make a difference in AOL’s business? “In general, I would not be on the phone with you if that was not the case. … I will take a very methodical and aggressive approach to making sure the business is very strong.”

What can he do that’s different from anyone else? “One thing I’m hopefully going to do better than anybody is listen.” As for dealing with staffers who literally aren’t sure they will have jobs in a month, “I think the best thing to do is be open and honest and communicate with the employees.”

Armstrong inherits Platform-A, the advertising conglom that has yet to hit on all cylinders and is now on its third top exec in a year. Former Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) ad exec Greg Coleman replaced AOL vet Lynda Clarizio just last month and has started his own personnel changes. Armstong’s take: “I’m actually friends with Greg and know Greg really well so looking forward to working with him.”

But Armstrong isn’t all about advertising. As an investor and entrepreneur, he’s backed content businesses through his Polar Capital Group, including the recently launched local operation Patch and he stressed his interest in AOL’s content businesses.

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