European MySpace employees wait for a bloodbath

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Four days ago MySpace announced they were laying off 30% of their staff in the U.S. and promptly sent 400 employees packing. The announcement stated that the layoffs only applied to U.S. employees. That strongly indicated that the next up for termination were over 100 of its international employees, as it has almost 30 offices around the world. MySpace in Europe covers 19 territories via 6 offices.

Now we’re hearing from employees inside MySpace’s offices in Europe who paint a black picture of hushed meetings between management, PR and HR teams.

We’ve been told that Una Kent, vice president of communications International, and other MySpace PR people in London burnt candles late into last night, going over how to announce the re-structuring of MySpace internationally. Kent reports directly to MySpace International MD Travis Katz.

“This is not usual for MySpace pr office,” says one of our sources, who fears for their own position. Internal and authoritative sources say there will soon be a big announcement about international cuts to staffing across Europe, and the staff themselves are either running for the door or sitting in frightened silence. And from what we’ve heard, the plans don’t sound pretty.

Needless to say, requests for “recommendations” on LinkedIn between MySpace staff in Europe have soared.

But it also looks like MySpace management is playing its cards close to its chest. Country managers have “not been informed about anything”, says one source, even though there has been speculation going on in the press for the last few days.

When we contacted MySpace last night an official spokesperson said there was “nothing more to share since the US sent out the media release on Tuesday. They’re still evaluating the business at this stage.”

Our sources say this is correct: effectively the knives are still being sharpened.

MySpace has not been doing well against Facebook or the many Facebook/MySpace-u-like social networks across Europe, and very often worse than in the U.S. MySpace also followed a strategy of having many regional sales offices across Europe, while Facebook has run a leaner ship, leaving its users to translate the site into local versions and growing more slowly from one ad sales office in London to a handful of other European offices.

Our sources also say that before the cuts were announced this week, the international PR staff in London asked each European country manager for a list of the 10 top journalists in their region and their direct contact details. This suggests that PR people in each European country office will shortly be canned, with communications run from London.

There’s a lot of speculation that only the offices in Germany and London will survive the cull. But we’ve even heard that estate agents have visited the expansive London offices, which suggests major downsizing there. Currently there are offices for the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and the Nordics.

HR have been poring over employees’ contracts during the last weeks, many of which are old contracts signed out when MySpace launched internationally some years ago. European regulations can be fiercely protective of employee rights, suggesting MySpace is in for a slower shutdown in Europe than they probably bargained for. Shutting down France in particular could be a huge nail in their side.

But all the uncertainty is leaving staff at their wits end.

As one told us: “In or out – the important is that they make this decision ASAP cause we are tired and sick of waiting. We are barely working any more. Our bosses are depressed and the general feeling is that the boat is sinking.”

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