MySpace CEO Fired After Nine Months: Report

Facebook veteran didn't last long at social network's helm

By Owen Thomas
|  Wednesday, Feb 10, 2010  |  Updated 10:14 PM PDT
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MySpace CEO Fired After Nine Months: Report

Getty Images for Hubert Burda Me

Owen van Natta attends the Digital Life Design conference at HVB Forum on Jan. 25, 2010, in Munich, Germany.

MySpace members have a flitty, trend-chasing reputation.

So do the social network's overlords at News Corp., it seems.

Owen Van Natta, the company's CEO since last summer, is out of a job -- and not by his own choice, according to AllThingsD.com. A source familiar with the situation confirmed to NBC Bay Area that Van Natta was fired.

Kara Swisher wrote on that blog that News Corp. digital chief Jonathan Miller fired Van Natta in a late afternoon meeting, amidst friction among the company's top executives.

Miller, not Van Natta, had hired MySpace's COO, Mike Jones, and chief product officer, Jason Hirschhorn, according to Swisher, a situation which undermined Van Natta's authority as CEO.

Van Natta led a turnaround effort at MySpace which attempted to staunch the bleeding of its user base and improve the website's technical foundations. His strategy was to encourage "the socialization of content." That meant playing on MySpace's roots in Los Angeles's music scene and its enduring popularity with Hollywood movie studios to encourage people to interact with bands and celebrities on the site.

A News Corp. press release described the departure as a mutual decision, and alluded to Van Natta's "personal and professional plans."

There may be something to the personal bit: MySpace is based in Los Angeles, but Van Natta commuted to the job from the Bay Area, where he and his family live.

Van Natta, a veteran of Facebook, had long sought to run his own Internet company. His failure to rise to the CEO spot at Facebook was a lasting source of dissatisfaction there; he was demoted to the position of chief revenue officer before he left. He briefly ran Project Playlist, a music startup based in Palo Alto, Calif., before taking the job at MySpace.

While likely to be handsomely paid under his News Corp. contract, the loss of his high-profile position will be bruising to Van Natta's ego.

There is one Internet startup that might be looking for a CEO, however.

San Francisco-based Twitter is currently run by cofounder Ev Williams, who has made no secret of his lack of aptitude for managing companies. Twitter just recruited a CFO from Pixar, Ali Rowghani. Could another hire be in its future?

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