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HuffPost lays off 39 journalists after Yahoo-Verizon deal closes

Thirty-nine journalists at HuffPost were laid off Wednesday as part of Verizon Communications Inc.’s acquisition of Yahoo Inc., according to the union representing the website’s editorial staffers.

The cuts are part of what’s expected to be a 15% staff reduction across Yahoo and the Verizon-owned AOL, which merged Tuesday upon the completion of the $4.48-billion sale. In total, about 2,000 Yahoo and AOL workers are expected to lose their jobs as Verizon trims expenses and eliminates overlapping positions.

Verizon is counting on the combination of Yahoo and AOL, operating as a single business unit called Oath, to build a strong third alternative in a rapidly growing digital advertising market that is currently dominated by Google and Facebook.

Oath properties include HuffPost, Yahoo Sports, AOL.com, Makers, Tumblr, Build Studios, Yahoo Finance and Yahoo Mail.

An Oath spokesman could not break down job cuts by unit, but Yahoo Esports — the company’s competitive video game outlet — announced on its website it would close Friday.

Co-founded by Arianna Huffington in 2005 as the Huffington Post, the news site now called HuffPost rose to prominence with its mix of liberal politics, web-savvy journalism and blog posts from outside contributors. AOL purchased the site for $315 million in 2011; Verizon acquired AOL for $4.4 billion in 2015. Huffington herself left the company last year.

The union members who were laid off from HuffPost “will receive a collectively-bargained severance package that includes two months’ salary plus a week of pay for each year of service and continued health benefits for that entire period,” Writer’s Guild of America East said in a statement.

Included in the layoffs was former senior military correspondent David Wood, who won HuffPost’s only Pulitzer Prize, in 2012, for a multimedia series on military veterans.

Despite the high-profile terminations at one of Verizon’s marquee holdings, analysts said staff reductions were an inevitability in this type of merger.

“I can only imagine they felt they had a duplicate set of talent and that they needed to make cuts for economic purposes,” said Susan Bidel, a Forrester senior analyst.

HuffPost editorial staffers ratified their first union contract with the Writer’s Guild of America East in January. The union said at the time that the collective bargaining agreement included gains in pay and protections of journalistic integrity.

The Associated Press was used in compiling this report.

alexa.d’angelo@latimes.com

@andangelo15


UPDATES:

3:10 p.m.: This article was updated to include news of the close of Yahoo Esports.

2 p.m.: This article was updated to include additional context about HuffPost’s history.

11:40 a.m.: This article was updated with a comment from an Oath spokesperson, with information about the combination of Yahoo and AOL and with details about the unionization of HuffPost staffers.

This article was originally published at 10:15 a.m.

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