Kara Swisher

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Van Natta In at MySpace: Appointment to Be Announced Tomorrow

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Former Facebook exec Owen Van Natta will be named CEO of MySpace as early as tomorrow said sources close to the situation.

He will replace CEO and co-founder Chris DeWolfe, who stepped down from the job yesterday. DeWolfe will remain a strategic adviser at MySpace.

News Corp. declined comment.

No other top execs at the huge social-networking site will be named yet, as some have reported.

Instead, it will be up to Van Natta, who will work closely with new News Corp. digital head Jon Miller, to energize the current staff and recruit new talent to MySpace, which has seen its buzz and momentum wane in the face of the juggernaut growth of Facebook.

Nonetheless, MySpace is still the largest social network in the U.S., although Facebook is close to surpassing its size.

All Things Digital broke the news yesterday that Van Natta was the top choice of News Corp. (NWS), which owns MySpace.

(News Corp. also owns Dow Jones, which owns this Web site.)

In his new job, Van Natta has a lot of challenges, including: reinvigorating the MySpace brand, upgrading its technology, adding more innovation to its feature set, continuing to grow its nascent advertising business and dealing with the expected end to its lucrative online ad deal with Google (GOOG).

He also must play deft diplomat at MySpace, where many remain loyal to DeWolfe and to co-founder Tom Anderson. Anderson was in talks to step down as president yesterday for an unspecified new role in the company. He currently remains president.

Van Natta knows from tense company politics. He left Facebook last year after serving as its COO, and also as chief revenue officer, after his relationship with founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg foundered.

But before that, he was key to striking its lucrative search and advertising deal with Microsoft (MSFT) as well as negotiating the $240 million investment by the software giant that valued Facebook at an eye-popping $15 billion.

Van Natta has most recently been running Project Playlist, a controversial music-sharing site.

A purchase of the start-up is not part of this deal, sources said, as it had been in previous talks Van Natta has had with News Corp. about other digital jobs.

Previous to Facebook, Van Natta worked at Amazon (AMZN) in a number of capacities.


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik