MySpace staff 'stunned' at Owen Van Natta's sudden exit
Published 11/02/2010 | 11:51
The immediate departure of MySpace's chief executive, Owen Van Natta, has shocked employees of the company.
Sources close to the European arm of the News Corporation-owned business said that the staff were “stunned” at the sudden exit of Van Natta.
“It was widely known throughout the company that there had been a power struggle at the top between Mike Jones [the former chief operating officer who jointly succeeds Van Natta] and Van Natta but they did not expect Van Natta to actually leave the company any time soon,” said a senior digital executive.
It is still unclear whether Van Natta was fired or left of his own accord, with UK staff not having been told either way. However, the source added: “There was a feeling from the News Corp management that Owen had not been innovating at the speed of Facebook and there were not enough new product launches. And even the few launches that he has overseen – such as MySpace Music – needed continual development and improvement – which just has not happened.”
Van Natta is also understood to have had several meetings scheduled in over the next few months at the company’s headquarters in Los Angeles with the MySpace divisions located outside of the US.
A MySpace spokesman declined to comment.
News of Van Natta’s departure only comes nine months after he joined the firm after a short stint as chief executive of music start-up Project Playlist.
Previously he was the chief operating officer and then chief revenue officer at MySpace rival Facebook – a company in which he still owns stock.
He has left the MySpace with immediate effect and is to be replaced by Mike Jones, previously the chief operating officer and Jason Hirschorn, the former chief product officer. Both will now serve as co-presidents of the company.
Jon Miller, News Corporation’s chairman and chief executive of Digital Media, said: “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."
"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."
“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.”
Van Natta added: "I'm proud of the work we've all accomplished together and look forward to watching its continued growth."
All three digital executives joined MySpace at a similar time last year but tension between Jones and Van Natta is understood to have intensified over the last nine months.
Tasked with ripping up the previous management’s plans and creating a new vision – Van Natta’s first job was to sack two thirds of the global workforce.
Van Natta, in an interview last year, said he was optimistic of turning the ailing digital business’s fortunes around.
“We are launching a raft of new products and feature functionality over the next three months which I know will shift the momentum back and make us more relevant to more people," he predicted.
Rupert Murdoch, News Corp’s chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, bought the site in 2005 for $580m.
Van Natta was unavailable for comment and it is not yet known whether he has any other career plans.