Verizon AOL Portal up since Aug. 2013

In perhaps a small presage to the Verizon/AOL deal, Verizon has been running an AOL web portal for smartphone users since May 2013 (the first archive.org record of it was made on Aug.26th 2013; the cached page welcomes users “to the new Verizon Portal by AOL”).

Curious as to how this happened, I found an AOL press release which explains very little:

AOL To Offer Exclusive Mobile Web Portal To Verizon’s Smartphone Customers

(NEW YORK) May 6, 2013 – AOL (NYSE: AOL) announced today a content distribution partnership that will bring the AOL.com portal to Verizon Wireless smartphones and certain tablets running the Android, Windows Mobile and RIM operating systems. It is the first time that AOL will be the exclusive provider of the VZW Home mobile web portal on smartphones and tablets for the nation’s largest wireless carrier.

Beginning this summer, existing and new Verizon Wireless customers will have the AOL portal bookmarked on their smart phones and tablets’ web browsers. The multi-device experience will feature the recently refreshed AOL homepage — with breaking news, weather and maps — as well as live streaming events and popular videos. Personalization features will allow users to customize news sources, categories and other tools to their needs.[…]

Everyone talks about how the allegedly false rumors of Verizon wanting to buy AOL were quickly hushed-up but in the long run quite true, but no one mentions they’ve partnered before to bring this co-branded portal about (which, strangely enough, uses Bing as its default search engine. This is strange because AOL normally uses a co-branded version of Google for search, but Bing seems to have some sort of an agreement with Verizon which might preclude AOL using their own search appliance).

Also little known to the teeming masses, Verizon’s FiOS once had a co-branded AOL home page which Verizon discontinued on Oct. 15, 2011, according to a Verizon Support page.

AOL Sale Might Not Go Through: Shop the Company/Lack of Fiduciary Duty

In other news around the AOL sale, there’s a very real chance it might not go through. While everyone (including myself) talks as though it’s a done deal (and Tim Armstrong has been said to be hoping to get it over with about a month from now) there are problems with how it was conducted. AOL did not shop itself around, accepting the first interested suitor to come along. (As I said on another blog, this could have been your local Stop ‘N Shop for all the difference it makes; AOL was not looking for “synergy” so much as “some money”, and Timmy stands to gain a lot of it from this sale – $180 million in stock options alone, to be exact).

Another problem as seen by several attorneys, including a former Attorney General of Louisiana, is that AOL has potentially valued itself, at $50 per share, a bit too low. There are quite a few attorneys investigating that possibility.

Update, 6-5-15: Perhaps realizing that “not shopping itself around” could stop Verizon’s acquisition of AOL, AOL has done a regulatory filing which claims the company recently had three other suitors – but suspiciously enough, the filing does not name them, referring to them only as Company A, Company B, and Company C, and none of the suitors seemed interested in a full-on acquisition of AOL, instead pondering buying AOL assets in more piecemeal fashion. Which still might not be sufficient to fulfill regulatory requirements that AOL – the entire company – be shopped around before selling itself to Verizon.

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