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AOL CEO apologizes for public firing of executive

AOL chairman and Chief Executive Officer Tim Armstrong speaks at the Reuters Global Media Summit in New York November 28, 2011. REUTERS/Bren
AOL chairman and Chief Executive Officer Tim Armstrong speaks at the Reuters Global Media Summit in New York November 28, 2011. REUTERS/Bren

(Reuters) - AOL Inc Chief Executive Tim Armstrong said in a staff memo on Tuesday that he made a mistake in publicly firing an employee last Friday in front of a thousand workers.

A recording had been leaked to the media in which Armstrong is heard firing Abel Lenz, a creative director at AOL's Patch unit, after he tells Lenz to put down his camera. Lenz remains fired, the company said.

"I am accountable for the way I handled the situation, and at a human level it was unfair to Abel," Armstrong said in a memo to employees obtained by Reuters.

He added that he apologized directly to Lenz as well.

Armstrong also explained what drove him over the edge at the meeting, saying Abel had previously been told not to record confidential meetings.

"He repeated that behavior on Friday, which drove my actions," Armstrong said.

Lenz did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Since Armstrong took charge of AOL in 2009, he has focused on building the company as a media and entertainment destination dependent on advertising.

One of his biggest bets includes Patch, a group of local websites dotted throughout the United States that has cost the company roughly $150 million. The incident took place in a meeting focused on turning around that business.

Armstrong has met with the AOL board to discuss cost reductions at Patch, which includes closing down some websites and potential partnerships, to reach the goal of turning the unit profitable this year. A combined 1,000 Patch employees were in the room or had tuned into the meeting remotely, AOL said.

(Reporting by Liana B. Baker and Jennifer Saba; Editing by Richard Chang)

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