The widely held assumption is that the executive shake-up is the work of newly anointed NewsCorp digital chief Jonathan Miller. But it now seems just as likely that someone higher in the chain of command—Murdoch himself, even—is behind the move. Things at MySpace really started to unravel when former Fox digital COO Peter Chernin departed back in February. Chernin was the real business mind at Fox's interactive media group; and neither DeWolfe or cofounder Tom Anderson had the business pedigree to cope with a rough economy.
The pair were also rather infamous for their hard-partying ways, and tales of their excess are likely to become more public soon. One or both of them will likely find safe harbor in the music business, which is a good fit for their skill sets (and not just for the partying). DeWolfe has the right kind of experience to run a label, and I hear he's got good ties at Sony.
So who will be chosen to run MySpace next? Former Facebook COO Owen Van Natta is likely to take over, he's a great and obvious fit (and his name was on the short-list of replacements practically an hour after DeWolfe was ousted).
There is another dark horse candidate from inside the operation who has a shot: Jeff Berman, the president of sales and marketing. Berman oversaw the expansion of MySpace TV, as well as the presidential dialogue series in partnership with MTV. There is plenty of talent remaining at MySpace, it's just a matter of hiring a CEO who can find it.
Both are hard working family men, which will no doubt bring an end to the MySpace bacchanal—though once Van Natta gets a look at the technology behind the site, he might need to hit the bottle.
An official announcement is likely by the end of today.
Update: News Corp. just sent out a press release naming Owen Van Natta as the new CEO of MySpace:
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.
News Corporation (NASDAQ: NWS, NWSA; ASX: NWS, NWSLV) had total assets as of December 31, 2008 of approximately US$50 billion and total annual revenues of approximately US$33 billion. News Corporation is a diversified global media company with operations in eight industry segments: filmed entertainment; television; cable network programming; direct broadcast satellite television; magazines and inserts; newspapers and information services; book publishing; and other. The activities of News Corporation are conducted principally in the United States, Continental Europe, the United Kingdom, Australia, Asia and Latin America.
Related: Myspace, the Sequel From Issue 128 | September 2008