Via The Intercept: Taibbi and other journalists who came to First Look believed they were joining a free-wheeling, autonomous, and unstructured institution. What they found instead was a confounding array of rules, structures, and systems imposed by Omidyar and other First Look managers on matters both trivial—which computer program to use to internally communicate, mandatory regular company-wide meetings, mandated use of a "responsibility assignment matrix" called a "RASCI," popular in business-school circles for managing projects—as well as more substantive issues.

The lack of autonomous budgets, for instance, meant that in many cases Omidyar was personally signing off on—and occasionally objecting to—employee expense reports for taxi rides and office supplies. Both [Intercept editor John] Cook and Taibbi chafed at what they regarded as onerous intrusions into their hiring authority.

Months of constant wrangling, bubbling resentments, and low-level sniping over those perceived infringements began to explode into the open in the spring and summer. In April, First Look executive editor Eric Bates told Cook and Taibbi that Omidyar had imposed a three-month "hiring freeze" on both magazines in order to allow the company to figure out its directions and "values." (Omidyar later told staffers that there was no freeze, and that his instructions had been misunderstood.) Both editors were in the middle of recruiting their staffs, and the restriction was viewed internally as emblematic of the arbitrary and excessive authority being exercised by First Look over the magazines' operations.