Van Natta is a former Facebook and Amazon executive who, until today, was the CEO of a decidedly unstable music startup called Playlist. He’s got the resume to run MySpace, but as we said yesterday there are some serious questions around whether he’s the right guy. He still owns a significant part of Facebook and he’s clearly leaving Playlist, and the executives and investors he brought on board, in a bad situation. He joined that company just a few months ago. The rumor is that they’ll now be forced to shut down, although Playlist announces in a separate release that board member John Sykes, a cofounder of MTV, will take over as CEO for now.
This has been a dramatic week for MySpace, and the situation probably couldn’t have been handled more poorly. One person close to the situation described the firing of DeWolfe and the hiring of Van Natta as resembling “retarded drunk people riding bumper cars.”
We broke the news that News Corp. was looking to replace founder and CEO Chris DeWolfe on Tuesday. Later that day we confirmed the news. On Wednesday News Corp. issued a short press release that DeWolfe was leaving and that cofounder and president Tom Anderson would be moving to a new role.
We published a short list of possible candidates for the new CEO, which included Van Natta. Negotiations were concluded yesterday, we’ve heard from a source close to News Corp.
During all this time very little news has made its way to MySpace, and even the executives were left completely in the dark. Yesterday an executive of the company asked me if I’d heard any news and whether he was on the list to be terminated. That’s a sad situation.
“The clowns have taken over the circus,” he said.
More. Much more, on this story later.
The full press releases of both announcements are below:
News Corporation Names Owen Van Natta Chief Executive Officer of MySpace
Los Angeles, CA, April 24, 2009 – News Corporation today announced the appointment of Owen Van Natta to the role of MySpace Chief Executive Officer effective immediately. Mr. Van Natta will be based in Los Angeles and report directly to Jonathan Miller, News Corporation’s CEO of Digital Media and Chief Digital Officer.
A highly-regarded digital executive, Mr. Van Natta, 39, previously served as Chief Revenue Officer and Vice President of Operations for Facebook, where he helped negotiate Facebook’s $240 million investment from Microsoft. Earlier, he served as Vice President of Worldwide Business and Corporate Development for Amazon.com. Most recently, he was the CEO of Playlist, Inc., an online music company.
“Owen combines a deep understanding of social networking, a keen business sense and the operational experience to guide MySpace through its next phase of growth. I’m confident his leadership will be an invaluable asset,” said Mr. Miller. “I plan to work closely with Owen to shape our long-term vision around this vibrant community that already attracts more than 130 million users worldwide.”
“I’m thrilled to have the privilege to pilot MySpace in what is sure to be an incredibly exciting and rewarding next chapter for the business,” said Mr. Van Natta. “I feel honored to build upon the immeasurable achievements of the MySpace founders and look forward to working with Jon and the MySpace team to meet the challenges and make the most of the opportunities before us.”
While serving as Vice President of Operations and Chief Revenue Officer for Facebook, Van Natta focused on revenue operations, business development, strategic partnerships and technical operations. As Vice President of Worldwide Business and Corporate Development at Amazon.com, he managed global marketing programs and strategic partnerships. He was also part of the founding team of A9.com, the Amazon.com search company, and was responsible for site operations and sponsored-link advertising. Owen earned a B.A. from the University of California at Santa Cruz.
Playlist Names Board Member and Veteran Media Executive
John Sykes as CEO
MTV Co-founder and Former VH-1 President Replaces Owen Van Natta
Palo Alto, Calif., April 24, 2009 – Playlist, the leading social media network where over 43 million music fans discover, create and share playlists, announced today that Board Member and industry veteran John Sykes has joined the company as Chief Executive Officer. As a Co-founder of MTV, President of VH1, and CEO of Infinity Broadcasting, Sykes brings extensive operating experience and industry relationships to the company as it partners with the music industry to provide advertising, subscription and e-commerce services to music consumers.
Owen Van Natta will serve as an Advisor to Playlist.
“John was a pioneer of the MTV revolution that forever changed the music industry landscape by giving fans a whole new way to discover and enjoy music,” said Bob Zangrillo, Chairman of Playlist. “Playlist looks forward to leveraging John’s tremendous track record operating media businesses and deep relationships in the music industry as it builds out the world’s premier social media service.”
“Creating and sharing playlists has become a phenomenon in our culture. With over 43 million registered users, Playlist is the number one site where fans go to discover, share and enjoy their favorite music,” said John Sykes, CEO of Playlist. “Leveraging our newly forged partnerships with the music community, we can now offer consumers deep access to their music and provide the industry with powerful new revenue streams.”
Playlist, one of the fastest growing sites on the Internet, continues to establish partnerships with the entertainment industry in an effort to offer a comprehensive collection of content that can be discovered, shared and monetized at http://www.playlist.com.
With over 43 million registered users, Playlist is the number one site in the nation where consumers discover, organize and share their favorite music across the social Web. The company leverages over 50 million user created playlists to help media companies and the record industry virally promote, distribute and monetize their content. The company is based in Palo Alto, CA. For more information, visit http://www.playlist.com.