AOL’s Tim Armstrong Named Least Likable CEO in Media and Entertainment

By Umberto Gonzalez

AOL CEO Tim Armstrong has been named the least likable CEO in Media and Entertainment, according to a study published by Owler.

On the flip side, the top three most likeable CEOs in the Media & Entertainment industry include Hearst’s Steven R. Swartz, Turner’s John Martin, and Magzter’s Girish Ramdas. Disney CEO Bob Iger ranked 5th.

Owler — a crowdsourced business insights company that runs a National Likeability Study — conducted the study by polling its global database of 15 million companies and over 167,000 executives across a wide range of industries, such as artificial intelligence, food and beverage, finance and healthcare.

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With an average score of 68.8, Media & Entertainment industry CEOs ranked #20 in Owler’s Top 25 Industries list, suggesting that CEOs leading at media and entertainment companies, in terms of favorability, are in the middle of the pack relative to CEOs in other industries.

Voters probably haven’t forgotten when Armstrong came under fire back in February 2014 by outraged employees after he singled out the sick babies of two women at the company for increasing the cost of health benefits.

Armstrong, who has been the CEO of AOL Inc since 2009, explained that the infants forced AOL to dole out millions in medical expenses on a company-wide conference call. Armstrong’s controversial comments followed his explanation on CNBC as to why he was making changes to the company’s 401(k) program.

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“As a CEO and as a management team, we had to decide, do we pass the $7.1 million of Obamacare costs to our employees?” Armstrong said “Or do we try to eat as much of that as possible and cut other benefits?”

“We had two AOL-ers that had distressed babies that were born that we paid a million dollars each to make sure those babies were OK in general,” Armstrong said on the call. “And those are the things that add up into our benefits cost. So when we had the final decision about what benefits to cut because of the increased healthcare costs, we made the decision, and I made the decision, to basically change the 401(k) plan.”

According to a report by Re/code’s Kara Swisher, Armstrong’s baby bashing did not go over well with many AOL employees:

“His comments during the earnings call, specifically blaming the policy change in part on the costs associated with the birth of two ‘distressed’ babies by AOL employees, were completely outrageous. Almost unbelievable.”

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