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.”

  • ohh lala

    au revoir!

    • Excellent. More firings, please.

      Unemployment is funny.

    • not much

      hah, there is difference between myspace figing and GM firing. Or even MS firing all were above 1k which can be called as “bloodbath”. At least choose title wisely, include exaggerations in blog text.

    • http://www.squidoo.com/Slimming-1 Sharon

      Let’s hope the economy will pick up soon….

  • http://cybersweetness.com Gebadia Smith

    With myspace falling behind FB and not doing so good why is it people will still pay big money for custom myspace profiles?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris_Wheat/577855266 Chris Wheat

      and its those layouts are the downfall of myspace, its too much… Every page is different, most of the layouts are horrible color schemes, making it almost impossible to read allot of the text…

      Facebook is so much cleaner, has more functionality… I will never go back to myspace..

  • http://www.meetingwave.com John

    Not as easy to let go of employees in Europe vs the US. I understand that Germany is particularly tough (a handful of employees can immediately join a mega union, which takes over the negotiations). Things might have changed recently, but likely a lot more complicated.

    Good luck to those let go. Tough times, but hope to see a turn around soon.

  • goodsource

    As things begin to settle here, it’s so painfully obvious that those laid off did all the work- now there are a bunch of senior managers who took credit for all of the work not knowing how to get any of the work done! It can’t even be considered a real company, no thought, no strategy, no internal communication plan on who to go to for what- hopefully there is a learning curve for Europe, but I highly doubt it.

  • Oooh

    Bloodbath?

    Umm. With increasing cases of folks going postal, I think you should reconsider that word choice.

    • http://uk.techcrunch.com Mike Butcher

      It’s ok, it’s a lot tougher to get a gun in Europe, compared to the US.

      • A N Insider

        Hey Mike

        You might want to check your facts about the number of offices in Europe, there are actually only 6: UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Nordics. Why on earth would you think there are three different language offices in Switzerland. Good quality journalism there mate!

      • Cem

        Do we count Turkey?

      • Oooh

        You clearly don’t get the idea of going postal.

        This headline appears on TechCrunch.com and read by many Americans..many of whom have lost a job recently.

        Use of such words in these contexts is poor choice.

      • http://www.meetingwave.com John

        Re Guns in Europe – Depends. Switzerland has one of the highest gun ownership rates in the world.

      • Butterfly

        I think even the name Butcher is wrong in this context…

      • http://uk.techcrunch.com Mike Butcher

        Hey, that’s my real name :-)

  • badjourno

    Mike – do you really think we’d have 3 offices in Switzerland? And don’t you remember TechCrunch reporting the closure of the Polish and Netherlands offices a while back?

    • http://uk.techcrunch.com Mike Butcher

      Thanks, will update. Gotta love process journalism!

      • badjourno

        mmm, the word ‘journalism’ is probably debatable here…

  • disgruntledFIM

    It’s nuts to the wall full of paranoia, apathy and frustration here in the MS office. Not surprised that the company is more worried about its public image with the lay offs than being transparent with its own staff.

    I have a feeling the same thing will happen in the EU as it did in the US as goodsource said. All the chiefs who stay won’t have the indians to do the work and make them look good…

  • James Kirk

    Hey Mike, Facebook has local sales and marketing offices in London, Paris, Sweeden, Spain and a number of other territories.

    Your information is out of date.

    Also, MySpace does not have 30 local offices as far as I know. More like 10-12

    • http://www.ledscreenchina.com led panel

      Great .. it’s true i already saw a news on internet

    • http://www.ledscreenchina.com led panel

      right .i saw news on internet.

  • anon

    What about Turkey as someone said above? Doubt they like being ignored.

    Also, Latin America & Australia are big markets as well.

  • Manny

    Thanks Mr. Butcher..you have butchered whatever peace the European employees had left!

  • Dexter

    this article is a joke… if you’re going to report on people’s lives you might want to check your facts first.

    • http://uk.techcrunch.com Mike Butcher

      I’m not the ones sacking them.

      • Dexter

        no, you’re just the one reporting (and I use that term VERY loosely) on it and when you speak of people’s livelihood you should take extra care.

      • http://uk.techcrunch.com Mike Butcher

        Listen, everything I’ve heard is that employees are actually sick and tired of being kept in the dark and could use some clarity from management. Perhaps this story will help. Just doing my job.

      • Jackass

        Methinks Dexter is potentially Snr Mng at MS… With an (in)appropriate pseudonym name considering the subject matter!

  • Andrea

    Thanks for the heads up Mark :) Tech crunch has become my first source of information. Here at myspace you seem to know more than we do!

  • goodsource

    It is a shame that employees have to read about this first here rather than hearing from the people who are supposed to be in charge. I feel for the employees right now who read this article and don’t know if they’ll have a job next week.

    Worse still sources say that MySpace has about 300 people working outside domestic. Do the math. Closing all but a handful of territories will mean more like 200 – 250 people going.

    This is what happens when kids like dewolfe are allowed to play at being leaders and run companies. My contacts tell me that Katz lacks any operational experience but was asked to run a business way beyond his years and talent. No plan, no leadership, no idea. It sucks.

    Good luck to those who are let go.

  • laxastuff

    I believe a lot of people (internally & externally) saw this coming.

    Like others I have witnessed a clear lack of operational management and vision. I join goodsource about Katz and co. It seems no one’s had the energy to engage employees into an open dialog. It’s sad as some members of the staff blindly work their ass off with very short term strategy vision (which makes the work effort quite useless and ineffective in the long run) whereas the seats for the strong and strategic decision makers remain empty (looks like this might be changing though, time will tell).

    Trying to catch up with Facebook functionalities and pushing live a bunch of products was not a viable strategy – if it’s what the strategy was considering nothing has been communicated ever.

    The platform is fairly sclerotic, nothing can be done properly, it’s been unstable, unreliable, all the ingredients are there to deceive users, clients the staff, press…

    Some employees have developed a precious talent (top management included) that consist in doing not much, look like they are actually busy doing nothing and look cool at the same time. Impressive.

    Sadly, I believe the company must go through this, although I disagree with the way it’s happening. To survive myspace needs change; a new strategy, genuine pros and intelligent staff – there should be no room for lazy-bones and profiteers scratching each others backs and waiting for the chocolates.

    The company is perfectible, there’s most definitely room for staff and structure optimization.

    Question is will the “right” decisions be made when letting people go?

    Regardless, all the best for those who are let go and those who stay.

    • goodsource

      I agree. Sadly this must happen, but the fact still remains that this company wouldn’t be in this state if it hadn’t been mismanaged.

      The view coming out of the London office matches the sentiment here this week. This is what was sent to me:

      “There are too chiefs and VP’s running around making decisions that the staff don’t believe in. Get rid of the Katz and his favorites. He finally off loaded his awful global marketing chief before the holiday season after a catalog of errors and non delivery. No one knew what she did or how she got the job in the first place, although there were rumors. The new Chief Operating Officer must go and would be an even bigger disaster if she replaced Katz, the HR VP must go, Rebecca Horn the EU MD, and former golden child, who’s realising shouting and ranting can’t replace solid strategy and leadership needs to go back to Australia and run something smaller. If I’m still standing after next week I want a leadership team I can believe in and actually has some experience. The Country Managers are ok but don’t seem to know what’s going on”.

      Good luck folks. We went through it this week and it sucks.

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