AOL CEO Tim Armstrong: Conference call firing was justified

Monday, 23 Sep 2013 | 11:20 AM ET
Getting upfront with AOL CEO
Monday, 23 Sep 2013 | 10:21 AM ET
CNBC's Julia Boorstin talks with Tim Armstrong, AOL chairman & CEO, about what's driving ad revenues and how his company is revamping it tech landscape.

The impromptu conference call firing of an AOL employee in August could have been handled differently, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong told CNBC, but it was justified based on the circumstances.

When asked whether he regretted the public firing, Armstrong told "Squawk on the Street" that "the way it was handled specifically, I probably would have done it differently."

(Read more: AOL chief embraces inner Trump, abruptly fires employee)

"But in the moment where I am trying to communicate with 1,000 people about the future of our company … everybody in that meeting knew it was a confidential meeting," he added. "I would not apologize about the way that I communicate with the employees."

Although the conference call was originally intended to boost morale, Armstrong said that several hundred jobs hung "in the balance" and that the details of the meeting were non-public information.

Armstrong also gave insight into the company's long-term strategy, where he plans to make AOL a "facilitator" of online advertising, as well as on-demand and live video on the web.

"It's really a pivot point for the industry," he said. "It's really about automation … changes are happening in the advertising industry, AOL is at the forefront of that."

On Monday, AOL hosted an event for advertisers, unveiling the company's plans to roll-out programmatic ad buying, which he envisions will increase transparency while creating faster transaction speeds, as well as more transactions.

"If you're a corporation trying to reach consumers, this is an important week for you to understand where the industry is going and we want to help you plan for that," he said.

— By CNBC's Paul Toscano. Follow him on Twitter @ToscanoPaul and get the latest stories from "Squawk on the Street"


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  • Matt Hunter is the senior technology editor at CNBC.com.

  • Cadie Thompson is a tech reporter for the Enterprise Team for CNBC.com.

  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.

  • Jon Fortt is an on-air editor. He covers the companies, start-ups, and trends that are driving innovation in the industry.

  • Lipton is CNBC's technology correspondent, working from CNBC's Silicon Valley bureau.

  • Mark is CNBC's Silicon Valley/San Francisco Bureau Chief covering technology and digital media.