Kara Swisher

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Van Natta Confirmed as CEO of MySpace–The Full Press Release


Former Facebook COO Owen Van Natta has finally been officially named as CEO of MySpace, as BoomTown reported yesterday, according to a press release from News Corp.

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

Van Natta, 39, will take over immediately and be based in Los Angeles, where MySpace has its HQ. But, with strong ties to Silicon Valley, he is likely to give the site more of a high-tech infusion.

Van Natta has most recently been running Project Playlist, a controversial music-sharing start-up based in Palo Alto, Calif. Previous to that, he worked at Amazon (AMZN).

He will be replaced there, in turn, by well-known former MTV Networks exec and co-founder John Sykes.

No other new top execs at the huge social-networking site have been named yet, as some had reported.

Instead, it will be up to Van Natta, who will work closely with and report to new News Corp. digital head Jon Miller, to energize the current staff and recruit new talent to MySpace.

The social-networking giant has seen its buzz and momentum wane in the face of the juggernaut growth of Facebook.

Van Natta played a key role in Facebook’s formation, striking key investment and advertising deals with Microsoft (MSFT), for example. He left after it was clear he was not going to become CEO, a job held by founder Mark Zuckerberg.

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 earlier this week 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 search-advertising 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 is in talks to step down as president for an unspecified new role in the company. He currently remains president.

Here’s the full press release on Van Natta:

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.

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