What Arianna Huffington Told Me....

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Luncheon host Sugar Rautbord and Arianna Huffington.

And a hundred other people who attended the by-invite-only luncheon at the Casino this week.  Organized by my friend who plans only the BEST events in town, Sugar Rautbord, this event was one of the most inspiring in recent memory.  A lot of people were surprised Arianna even showed up after her $315 million merger with AOL ($300 mil in cash).  Sugar said that is just not her way.  Arianna said a lot of her staffers had long faces after being told of the deal.  She said they felt like AOL was their grandparents’ brand.  I’m sure they’re happier now!!!

The Huffington Post attracted 24 million unique visitors a month before the merger and it is expected that, together, they will attract 130 million a month nationally and 250 million globally.  Pretty amazing numbers.  The HP had 4 million comments last month as well. This acquistion marks the largest deal the company has made since AOL CEO, Tim Armstrong, started in April 2009.  AOL went on a shopping spree in September buying up the TechCrunch blog, online video company 5min Media and Web-based software company Thing Labs Inc. 

Arianna was introduced by Timothy O’Brien, National Editor of The Huffington Post and former editor of the NY Times Sunday Business Section.  She was also presented with a lovely crystal bowl by Oak Financial Advisor Chairman John Fitzpatrick.  During her talk, she delighted the crowd with her charm and engaging sense of humor as well as her obvious intelligence.  She said, “For those of you who haven’t heard me before, this accent is real.”  She also congratulated Maggie Daley on her after-school kids program.  Arianna describes the Huffington Post as “beyond left and right.”  She said the DNA for her idea included young journalists being mentored by seasoned professionals and that a goal was to bring together the greatest minds of our time. The first person she asked to be a blogger was Arthur Schlesinger who had no idea what a blog even was. 

She described today’s social media this way, Old media is consumed by sitting on a couch.  New media is consumed by gallopping on a horse.” The Post has 26 sections including a popular one recently suggested by writer Nora Ephron on divorce.  When Arianna had lunch with the head of Twitter recently he told her there should be 3 goals to success.  Number one, make money.  Number 2, make a positive global impact and number 3, make sure people have fun doing it along the way.   She went on to say, “Blogging makes people feel that they are a voice of our times.  There is no deadline, no obligations.  They can write or not write.”  She is also grateful to her mother who taught her not to be afraid of failure.  She emphasized there is no one who had succeeded without multiple failures.  Her 2 daughters jokingly tell her they are tired of hearing about them. When she was a young child growing up in Greece, she visualized attending Cambridge by taping a photo of the university on her refrigerator.  The rest, as they say, is history!

After the merger she had her first analyst’s call with AOL.  She told them, “I intend to stay here forever because I don’t want to do anything else.”  Her future plans include expanding video and women’s programming among other ideas.  I can’t wait to see what this dynamic woman does next!

Congrats and thanks to Sugar Rautbord and sponsor Oak Family Advisors for this enlightening luncheon. 

Guests in attendence included Maggie Daley, Bill Farley, Ross Glickman, Kristina and Mike McGrath, Helen Melchior, Kerrie Kennedy Mudd, Christopher Clinton Conway, Barbara Kipper, Chaz Ebert, Sarah and Ted Tetzlaff, Laura and Andrea Schwartz, Laurie Davis, Lynda Silverman, Melissa Babcock, Christine Ott, Lydia Alouf, Kathy Lidbury, Margaret O’Connor, Jim Hennessey, Bill Zwecker, Susanna Negovan, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Melinda Jakovich, Cynthia Pacholick, Shirley Ryan, Margot Pritzker, Grace Barry, Marilyn Miglin, Tracy Clifford and her dad Bob Clifford, Carol Prins and hubby John Hart, AOL top brass, NY Times top brass, co-host Oak Financial Advisors’ Chairman John Fitzpatrick and his wife Susan, Paula and Alexis Fasseas, Larry Wert, Maureen Smith, Martha Melman, Diane Primo and Jim Cobb among others.  (Photos by Mitchell Canoff.)

For extended coverage, please check out CandidCandace.com on Tuesday!

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