Owen Van Natta is out as CEO of News Corp (NWS) social network MySpace. He will be replaced by newly-elevated co-Presidents Mike Jones and Jason Hirschhorn.
Then, a source close to News Corp senior management told us:
“One group says [Owen is] trying to get fired so he can leave. Another group is saying he’s getting real close to [MySpace parent-company News Corp chairman] Rupert [Murdoch]. Not sure who to believe. I think Owen probably wants to go back to San Francisco with his family.”
Owen joined MySpace less than a year ago. Previously, he was CEO of music start-up Project Playlist. Before that, he was chief revenue officer and COO of Facebook.
Jason Hirschhorn is a former Sling exec. Mike Jones was a top guy at AOL.
Here’s the statement:
News Corporation today announced that Owen Van Natta will step down from his position as MySpace CEO, effective immediately. Mr. Van Natta will be replaced by newly-elevated co-Presidents Mike Jones and Jason Hirschhorn, who will each report to Jon Miller, Chairman and CEO of Digital Media for News Corporation. All three executives joined MySpace in April 2009, with Mr. Jones and Mr. Hirschhorn previously serving as Chief Operating Officer and Chief Product Officer, respectively.
“Owen took on an incredible challenge in working to refocus and revitalize MySpace, and the business has shown very positive signs recently as a result of his dedicated work,” said Jon Miller, News Corporation’s Chairman and CEO of Digital Media. “However, in talking to Owen about his priorities both personally and professionally going forward, we both agreed that it was best for him to step down at this time. I want to thank Owen for all of his efforts.”
Mr. Miller continued, “Mike and Jason have demonstrated true leadership in their operational and product guidance, respectively, and I have the utmost confidence in both of them to lead MySpace into its next chapter.”
In a joint statement, Mr. Jones and Mr. Hirschhorn noted:
“We joined MySpace last April with very a specific set of goals in mind, and are anxious to continue working together to make those goals a reality. This business is now pointed in the right direction, and we have a great team of employees that will continue to push MySpace closer to its potential as the place where people go to be discovered and to discover great content.”
Mr. Van Natta commented:
“MySpace is an incredibly unique place and we’ve made real gains in terms of product focus and user experience. I’m proud of the work we’ve all accomplished together and look forward to watching its continued growth.”
Prior to his role as MySpace COO, Mr. Jones founded and operated several online businesses, including Userplane, a leading provider of tools for online communities such as MySpace. Userplane was acquired in 2006 by AOL, where Jones subsequently served as a senior vice president and focused on social media monetization and also pioneered the distribution of widgets and other technology to Web publishers. He also was founder and CEO of Tsavo Media, an online content and search network developing next-generation publishing platforms and technology services.
Since joining MySpace, Mr. Hirschhorn oversaw all aspects of product development, and previously has led both start-up and established online businesses. He was president of Sling Media, Inc’s Entertainment Group, which created consumer-driven applications and services for the Slingbox device, and was chief digital officer at MTV Networks, where he oversaw the company’s digital media businesses, products and strategies. Hirschhorn joined MTV Networks following the acquisition of his company, Mischief New Media, which provided interactive services to the entertainment industry.
News Corporation (NASDAQ: NWS, NWSA; ASX: NWS, NWSLV) had total assets as of December 31, 2009 of approximately US$56 billion and total annual revenues of approximately US$30 billion. News Corporation is a diversified global media company with operations in eight industry segments: filmed entertainment; television; cable network programming; direct broadcast satellite television; integrated marketing services; newspapers and information services; book publishing; and other. The activities of News Corporation are conducted principally in the United States, Continental Europe, the United Kingdom, Australia, Asia and Latin America.