AOL loses its top global-sales exec ahead of the Yahoo deal

AOL is losing its top global-sales exec in the middle of its deal to merge its operations with Yahoo. Verizon agreed to buy Yahoo for $4.68 billion earlier this year. Since then, their executives, including AOL’s Tim Armstrong, have been working on coordinating the inevitable integration.

Jim Norton’s departure comes as AOL and Verizon are trying to figure out the best organization to create after it completes its deal with Yahoo, which is expected to happen later this year or early next year. Sources say that there are plans to split AOL into two units, one that will focus on media and advertising and the other on platforms and tech. Presumably, the strategy is to fit Yahoo’s unit into that structure.

There is a possible glitch due to recent revelations about a data breach at Yahoo; because of the breach, Verizon and Yahoo are discussing potential liabilities that may impact terms of the deal. But executives at AOL and Verizon are proceeding as if it will be happening at this time.

Norton’s exit is yet another wrench in what has become a complex deal. He is a key player at AOL as the company’s global head of media sales. He came there in 2011 from Google, where Tim Armstrong, now CEO of AOL, was its top sales exec. He is leaving for Condé Nast, but it’s not clear what his role there will be. Presumably, it’ll be a top sales position.

The move is likely to attract a lot of attention within the ad community because of Norton’s stature at AOL. But it has, at the same time, opened a space for top Yahoo execs. Lisa Utzschneider is currently Yahoo’s highest-ranking sales exec.

Along with the Norton departure, Jimmy Maymann is also departing, which comes as no surprise after the departure of Arianna Huffington; he was brought on by her and served as CEO of the Huffington Post unit at one point.

In a memo sent to AOL execs, Armstrong said, “Over the last seven years, Jim has made an incredible mark on AOL, building one of the most respected media sales teams in the industry and we would not be where we are today without his leadership, commitment and tenacity.”

In addition to grabbing Norton, Condé has also struck several business development deals with AOL, including live fashion shows with its Vogue magazine unit.


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