MySpace parent company News Corp. continues to leak, off record, that Owen Van Natta is in the final stages of becoming the new CEO of MySpace (one of the more obvious candidates on our list yesterday). Van Natta certainly has the experience on paper to run the company – he was a business development executive at Amazon, the chief revenue officer at Facebook and most recently the CEO of music startup Playlist.com. If the leaks are correct, he’s in the final stages of contract negotiation and his hiring will be announced shortly.
He knows social networking, music/media and the Internet in general, and will certainly be able to get his hands around MySpace’s business. But his hiring is leaving many scratching their heads nonetheless.
Van Natta owns a significant percentage of Facebook stock and is of course intimately knowledgeable about their business. At the very least it’s bad form for him to join Facebook’s primary competitor. At worst there may be legal issues since it will be extremely difficult for him to continue to protect confidential Facebook information in his new job. But it’s widely known that Van Natta feels betrayed by Facebook for not making him the CEO and has a deep dislike of Mark Zuckerberg. The revenge factor in taking the top job at Facebook’s biggest competitor must be making him feel somewhat vindicated.
But…what about Playlist? He took the job just last November, less than six months ago. Investors are relying on him, as are employees, many of which he’s recruited since he joined. To walk away from that job so quickly doesn’t say much for his character. Perhaps there are unknown facts that mitigate the situation, but it doesn’t look good. As bad as Playlist’s business looks right now, the CEO has an obligation to investors and employees to see it through to the end and try to create a good outcome for the company.
At least Van Natta has tried MySpace, and even logged in a couple of days ago. He has six friends on the service and has uploaded a few pictures. His presumed new boss, Jonathan Miller, has yet to create a MySpace profile of his own.
This is actually the third time recently that Van Natta has interviewed for a MySpace-related job. He was a top candidate to lead MySpace Music, but his attempts to sell Playlist to the company as part of the deal left a bad taste in DeWolfe’s mouth. Van Natta also interviewed for the CEO Digital Media job that eventually went to Jonathan Miller.
The whole circus around MySpace this week settles a lot of scores: News Corp execs, long dismayed at DeWolfe’s close relationship with Rupert Murdoch, are gleefully leaking news around DeWolfe getting fired. The fact that they effectively announced Van Natta as the new CEO may have given them some immediate gratification, but it also puts him in a very strong negotiating position – if talks break down now News Corp. looks even more ridiculous than they already do. Van Natta gets his revenge on Facebook, but leaves his current company in terrible situation. And the MySpace executive team sits in stunned silence as they await news on which of them will still have a job next month, and who their new CEO will be.