Patch Media CEO Jon Brod will become the head of the newly formed AOL (NYSE: TWX) Ventures, ATD’s Kara Swisher reported. Patch is the hyperlocal news network covering six New Jersey communities. It was one of a pair of local-focused sites AOL bought last month, the other being events guide Going Inc. AOL CEO Tim Armstrong had been a previous investor in New York-based Patch. Before taking over at Patch, Brod was the president and COO of investment firm Polar Capital Group, which focused on media, tech and sports start-ups.
On paper at least, Brod sounds like a good pick to head the new unit. AOL Ventures is one part investment arm, one part way station for companies that don’t quite fit into the company’s new structure, an AOL exec told us. The unit is currently housing Bebo, the UK social net that AOL acquired for $850 million in May 2008. Many critics argue that the purchase was ill-considered, and even Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes eventually admitted that AOL probably over-paid. Speculation has persisted that Bebo will be sold off—shuttling it into the new AOL Ventures unit has only fueled such talk.
The company has tended to resist innovation and cohesion, the AOL exec told us earlier today, because not all the parts of the company fit well together. So AOL Ventures was created as a place to warehouse “non-core items”—and hopefully give the company a chance to figure out what to do with them, which in some cases, could include sell-offs. The executive insisted that AOL wanted to take a closer look at Bebo and the inclination was to make it work before giving up.
Additionally, the unit will serve as AOL’s investment arm. “We want to be back in the investment community, so when the next big idea is being talked about, AOL is there to fund it or acquire it,” the executive told us.
By David Kaplan