Profile: Arianna Huffington

Arianna Huffington
Image caption Arianna Huffington is set to leave the Huffington Post

She was once described as "the most upwardly mobile Greek since Icarus". Now Arianna Huffington, who founded Huffington Post, has announced she is leaving the liberal news and opinion site to focus on a new health, wellness and productivity venture.

Arianna Huffington boasts a varied and accomplished CV - as a Republican then a Democratic commentator, author and political candidate.

Ms Huffington secured her place as one of America's richest and most influential bloggers, with the sale of her Huffington Post empire to AOL, for a reported $315m (£195.5m) in 2011.

She was made president and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, initially putting her in charge of the combined firm's editorial content.

At the time Ms Huffington described the role as her "last act".

"I want to stay forever," she told reporters. "The opportunities here are really endless."

This makes the confirmation of her departure something of a surprise.

She is leaving to run a start-up called Thrive Global. Her new company is described as "a corporate and consumer well-being and productivity platform" designed to combat workplace "burnout".

It was personal experience of exhaustion that inspired her move into this market. In 2007 she fainted and broke her cheekbone, leading her to become a champion for a better work/life balance.

HuffPost success

Ms Huffington, 66, launched the Huffington Post in 2005 with Kenneth Lerer and other investors.

The website represented a new business and news model, generating much of its content from a community of citizen journalists and bloggers.

The Huffington Post went on to become one of the most visited websites in the US. Aggressive expansion saw it become an internationally recognised and respected brand. Across all nine global editions Huffington Post now has 81 million visitors a month.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Arianna Huffington (left) ran against Arnold Schwarzenegger for the role of governor of California in 2003

Ms Huffington's time under the AOL umbrella was not always smooth. Management wrangling saw her duties reduced to solely looking after the Huffington Post in 2012.

She did, however, sign a new deal in June 2015 to remain in her role as president and editor-in-chief until 2019.

Her growing interest in health and wellness has been well-documented and she has published several books on the subjects. After securing funding to drive forward her new venture, she announced she and the Huffington Post would be parting ways.

'Made me believe'

Arianna Huffington was born Arianna Stassinopoulos in Athens in 1950. Her father was a journalist but she credits her mother for her outlook on life.

Her mother "made me believe that I could try whatever I wanted and that if I failed she wouldn't love me any less", she told the BBC World Service.

She left her native country to study economics at Cambridge University, where she became president of the Cambridge Union.

She launched her career as a commentator in earnest with a virulent attack on feminist Germaine Greer's seminal work The Female Eunuch.

The Female Woman, which attacked feminism for ignoring women's "special considerations" for their family, was hailed by the right wing, and Ms Huffington began her ascent.

Political transformation

She moved to America and in 1986 married Texas oil billionaire Michael Huffington. She played a major role in his election to the US House of Representatives in 1992 and in his failed bid for a Senate seat two years later.

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Image caption Michael and Arianna Huffington married in the 1980s

By this point, Ms Huffington had made a name in her own right as a darling of the Republican establishment and a key supporter of Newt Gingrich and other right-wing figures.

In 1998 she began her first internet venture,, a website that catalogued all elected officials and public figures who had called for President Bill Clinton's resignation.

"The message of is clear," she wrote. "Take responsibility, Mr President, for what you have done to your party, your office and your country, and continue your 'journey' of 'reconciliation and healing' in private."

But a political transformation was not far off. Even before she divorced Michael Huffington in 1997 (he later announced he was gay), she had broken ties with the Republicans, leaving the party in 1996.

"My disillusion with the Republican Party had nothing to do with my marriage," she said. "It had to do more with my own understanding that the role of government had to be a lot more activist than I thought it had to be in order to solve major social problems that we were facing."

Image copyright Carlos Serrao (left image) Peter Yang (right)
Image caption Huffington has published books on the themes of health, well-being and productivity

She began openly criticising her former political bedfellows. Her book Pigs at the Trough attacked US President George W Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney in particular, and called for grassroots action against corruption in American politics and business.

Ms Huffington also sponsored a series of adverts parodying Republican drug-control messages that implied drug users were somehow funding terrorism. Her version suggested owners of big petrol-guzzling cars were also helping out.

Her interest in political activism reached new heights when she ran as an independent candidate for governor of California in 2003.

Standing against Arnold Schwarzenegger, she described the race as the "hybrid versus the Hummer". But she eventually dropped out of the race before election day.

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