AOL Inc., owner of the Huffington Post and TechCrunch, has appointed Karen Dykstra as chief financial officer and added PepsiCo Inc.’s Hugh Johnston as director, three months after fending off an activist investor challenge to shake up the board. Dykstra, who served as a board member since 2009, replaces Arthur Minson, who was promoted to chief operating officer in June to reorganize AOL’s operations. Dykstra will no longer remain on the board. Johnson, chief financial officer of PepsiCo, adds consumer retail expertise to the Internet company.
“Hugh’s financial expertise and consumer-industry experience makes him a great addition to the board,” AOL Chief Executive Officer Tim Armstrong said Wednesday in a statement.
Since the Web portal was spun out of Time Warner Inc. in 2009, Armstrong has transformed AOL into an ad-based publishing business. The company bought the Huffington Post for $315 million last year and invested as much as $300 million in Patch, a local-news division that Armstrong sees commanding as much as $50 million in sales this year.
Facing a slump in sales earlier this year, AOL agreed in April to sell and license patents to Microsoft Corp. The company is selling more than 800 patents and related applications to Microsoft. The company announced stock buyback agreements and a special cash dividend last month as part of its steps to return about $1.1 billion to shareholders.
The move has helped lift AOL’s stock price, which has more than doubled this year.
The rising stock price bolstered Armstrong’s case as he fended off an activist investor’s bid to shake up the board earlier this month. Starboard Value, an investment firm owning 3 percent of outstanding shares, had fought to install three directors, saying AOL was spending too much money on failed efforts such as the Patch news sites.
Dykstra, a former partner at Plainfield Asset Management, will serve as a key member of the executive team, according to the company statement.