When the narrowest of gaps opened in the media business, Arianna Huffington jumped into it headfirst and jacked it wide open. In 2005, with little more than her impregnable charm, thicket of friends and contacts and outsize chutzpah, she launched the golden goose of news websites (or of any business) popular, adroit, cheap as chips to run and named after her.
The Huffington Post is now one of the 50 most frequented Web destinations, holding its own against much bigger and longer-established media megaliths. In February it attracted more than 23 million unique visitors. That month AOL bought it for $315 million, making Arianna, 60, not just well connected but also admired, albeit grudgingly, by the business community.
The acquisition may have been just in the nick of time. Some of the news organizations that the site links to have suggested she's hosting a party using their best china. And one of HuffPo's contributors has filed a class action against the website and AOL, claiming some proceeds of the sale. Still, one sure sign of influence is that somebody wants to bring you down.