Veteran digital content and advertising executive Tim Armstrong will depart as head of Verizon’s Oath digital media business in the next few weeks, as the wireless giant continues to pivot away from the content business.
The news was first reported by The Wall Street Journal and later confirmed by Verizon.
Armstrong led AOL’s advertising and content business from 2009-2015, when AOL was acquired by Verizon for $4.4 billion. At Verizon, he attempted to build a digital advertising business comparable to Facebook and another of his previous employers, Google, spearheading Verizon’s $4.8 billion purchase of Yahoo in 2016. The unit housing Verizon’s digital advertising efforts sought to promote media brands like HuffPost, TechCrunch and Yahoo Sports to Verizon’s 116 million wireless subscribers. But only a fraction of those users, 10 million, have opted into “Verizon Selects,” the program that enables the company to know enough about users to deliver them targeted advertising.
The division’s struggles were highlighted over the spring, when Verizon finally gave up on mobile-first content platform go90, which struggled mightily despite ample promotion. Verizon took a $900 million hit to its balance sheet in the second quarter following that shuttering.
Further, Verizon has changed course on its perspective on the content business, prioritizing 5G connectivity infrastructure. Over the summer, Lowell McAdam announced his pending retirement, with former Ericsson CEO Han Vestberg—currently serving as CTO of Verizon—taking over as Verizon chief executive on August 1.
Over the summer, according to WSJ, Armstrong reportedly informed senior Oath leaders that he was handing day-to-day oversight of Oath to former Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. executive K. Guru Gowrappan, who joined Oath over the spring.
Also reported to be departing Oath are Vanessa Witteman, the division’s head of finance, and Natalie Ravitz, its communications chief.