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AOL hires bankers; preparing for sale?

The company says it has retained an investment bank and a law firm--both of which have extensive experience in mergers and acquisitions.

AOL properties in the Huffington Post Group.
Huffington Post

AOL is seemingly inching closer to putting itself up for sale, a new report from AdWeek claims.

According to the publication, which cites anonymous sources, AOL met with law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz and investment bank Allen & Company this week in what could have been a discussion about putting the online company on the block.

In an e-mailed statement to AdWeek, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong confirmed that the two companies have been put on retainer with AOL but would not confirm that AOL is, in fact, looking for a possible suitor.

"There is no deal on the table, no proposed deal, and both parties are on retainer with us and we work with them," Armstrong told AdWeek. "Our strategy hasn't changed and we are moving faster than ever on it."

Related stories:
• AOL's first day: We want to believe
• AOL ad revenue up, but losses continue
• AOL acquires Huffington Post for $315 million

Both the law firm and investment bank have a long history of involvement in mergers and acquisitions. The managing director at Allen & Company Nancy Peretsman, for example, played a role in Google acquiring 5 percent of AOL in 2005. Peretsman also worked on News Corp.'s acquisition of Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal, AdWeek said.

AOL has endured some tough times both before and after it was spun off by Time Warner in 2009. Last year, the company generated $2.4 billion in revenue, but lost a whopping $782.5 million. In the first two quarters of this year, AOL has lost about $7 million on more than $1 billion in revenue.

To help buoy its position in the market, AOL acquired Huffington Post earlier this year in a deal valued at $315 million. Since then, Huffington Post has apparently done little to help. In fact, during the second quarter, AOL saw unique-visitor tallies jump 1 percent compared with the same period in the prior year, but unique visitors to its advertising network declined by 1 percent.

Given those troubles and considering the many facets of AOL's business--including its dial-up operation, which some buyers may not want--it's tough to say what a potential suitor would actually pay for the company. AOL's shares closed at $13.94 yesterday, setting its market cap to about $1.5 billion. But if AOL is, in fact, trying to sell itself, there's no telling if it would fetch that price.

AOL did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment.