Yesterday was a special day as AOL celebrated its’ 25th anniversary on the Dulles, VA campus. Major kudos to AOL’s CEO, Tim Armstrong, and his management team for making the decision to celebrate the anniversary in a special way — by dedicating three buildings on the campus to former AOL CEO and Chairman – Steve Case, former AOL Vice-Chairman – Ted Leonsis and AOL Founder – Jim Kimsey.
I had the incredible honor of serving as one of three former AOL’ers (along with Jim Bankoff and Danny Krifcher) to make remarks and introduce Ted. We had 4 minutes to make our remarks — in front of over 2,000 people (including over 500 AOL alumni)! I’m used to public speaking but I was a bit nervous during rehearsals since it was such a large space. But, as the time came near to make our remarks, I felt an incredible amount of positive energy — I think due in part to the fact we’d be addressing so many long-time friends. Internally, I said to myself, “… it feels good to be back home.” That’s how I felt in seeing so many of the wonderful people that helped build AOL into a powerhouse in the 1990’s.
I’m also still amazed at how wonderful Steve and Ted are in making public remarks. While Danny, Jim and I had a script — which we rehearsed a number of times — Steve and Ted spoke with no script — and spoke directly from their hearts. Simply spectacular. This must be a great feeling for these three executives to have buildings named after them (HQ is named after Steve, CC-1 is named after Ted and CC-2 is named after Jim).
It was also terrific to see how Tim Armstrong, who was named CEO in March 2009, embraced the management team that built AOL into an industry leader. He also called out a number of the execs who each played a key role in the ascension of AOL. I’m sure that a number of AOL alumni appreciated the acknowledgment of the past as well as the intent to re-connect and kick-start AOL into becoming an industry powerhouse once again.
As I’ve written in the past, the thing that was most special about AOL was the people. AOL was full of terrific people — smart, driven, caring, compassionate, competitive, etc. Much of this emanated from the terrific leadership in place at the time. Steve and Ted inspired and motivated us. We worked long, long hours to build AOL into a great company. But, we didn’t care about the long hours since this was our passion – we were creating a new medium. So, in summary, yesterday was a special day — it was special in that deserving people were so highly honored by having the main buildings named after them — and it was special to see so many of the AOL family — past and present — there to participate in this joyous celebration.