MySpace CEO Owen Van Natta Steps Down

MySpace has just announced that CEO Owen Van Natta has left the company. Taking his place will be co-Presidents Mike Jones And Jason Hirschhorn, who had been serving as the company’s Chief Operating Officer and Chief Product Officer, respectively. The news comes less than two weeks after we interviewed Van Natta about his first eight months running MySpace, when he gave no indication that he was intending to leave the company. Van Natta joined MySpace last April alongside Jones and Hirschhorn as part of a major executive shakeup.

We’d previously reported that Chief Product Officer Hirschhorn would soon be leaving the company. Obviously that isn’t the case. Our sources tell us that there has been a long standing conflict between News Corp digital chief Jon Miller and Van Natta, and that part of Van Natta’s decision to leave was his inability to terminate Hirschhorn.

Before MySpace, Van Natta had a short-lived stint as CEO of Project Playlist, where he stayed for around five months.

We’ve included the release below:

News Corporation today announced that Owen Van Natta will step down from his position as MySpace CEO, effective immediately. Mr. Van Natta will be replaced by newly-elevated co-Presidents Mike Jones and Jason Hirschhorn, who will each report to Jon Miller, Chairman and CEO of Digital Media for News Corporation. All three executives joined MySpace in April 2009, with Mr. Jones and Mr. Hirschhorn previously serving as Chief Operating Officer and Chief Product Officer, respectively.

“Owen took on an incredible challenge in working to refocus and revitalize MySpace, and the business has shown very positive signs recently as a result of his dedicated work,” said Jon Miller, News Corporation’s Chairman and CEO of Digital Media. “However, in talking to Owen about his priorities both personally and professionally going forward, we both agreed that it was best for him to step down at this time. I want to thank Owen for all of his efforts.”

Mr. Miller continued, “Mike and Jason have demonstrated true leadership in their operational and product guidance, respectively, and I have the utmost confidence in both of them to lead MySpace into its next chapter.”

In a joint statement, Mr. Jones and Mr. Hirschhorn noted:
“We joined MySpace last April with very a specific set of goals in mind, and are anxious to continue working together to make those goals a reality. This business is now pointed in the right direction, and we have a great team of employees that will continue to push MySpace closer to its potential as the place where people go to be discovered and to discover great content.”

Mr. Van Natta commented:
“MySpace is an incredibly unique place and we’ve made real gains in terms of product focus and user experience. I’m proud of the work we’ve all accomplished together and look forward to watching its continued growth.”

Prior to his role as MySpace COO, Mr. Jones founded and operated several online businesses, including Userplane, a leading provider of tools for online communities such as MySpace. Userplane was acquired in 2006 by AOL, where Jones subsequently served as a senior vice president and focused on social media monetization and also pioneered the distribution of widgets and other technology to Web publishers. He also was founder and CEO of Tsavo Media, an online content and search network developing next-generation publishing platforms and technology services.

Since joining MySpace, Mr. Hirschhorn oversaw all aspects of product development, and previously has led both start-up and established online businesses. He was president of Sling Media, Inc’s Entertainment Group, which created consumer-driven applications and services for the Slingbox device, and was chief digital officer at MTV Networks, where he oversaw the company’s digital media businesses, products and strategies. Hirschhorn joined MTV Networks following the acquisition of his company, Mischief New Media, which provided interactive services to the entertainment industry.