Back to School: New MySpace CEO Van Natta Starts Today (Joined by Former AOL Exec Jones as COO)
New MySpace CEO Owen Van Natta starts his first day on the job at MySpace bright and early this morning, coming to its Beverly Hills HQ as he takes over for co-founder and former CEO Chris DeWolfe.
Along with him will be a new COO, former AOL exec Mike Jones, whose appointment will be announced this morning, sources said.
The pair will meet with MySpace staff today at 3:30 p.m. PDT.
Jones was the founder of Userplane, a social-networking application maker that was bought by then-AOL head Jon Miller in 2006.
Miller is now the digital chief at News Corp. (NWS), which owns MySpace.
(News Corp. also owns Dow Jones, which owns this Web site.)
Jones left the Time Warner (TWX) unit last year to start Tsavo, a digital content start-up.
Van Natta, who was running the Project Playlist start-up until his appointment, has stronger Silicon Valley ties. For now, he will commute to MySpace from Northern California, where his family lives.
Van Natta was a former top-ranking Facebook exec, still holding a small stake in the MySpace rival, and has also worked at Amazon (AMZN).
But, with a strong product and technology background, the Los Angeles-based Jones is an excellent choice to be a partner to Van Natta–who was hired by Miller last week in a flurry of change at the social-networking site.
Their challenges include: 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 tough renegotiation of its lucrative search and advertising deal with Google (GOOG).
They must also play deft diplomats 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.
See a chat I had with Jones in the video below that I did at a gathering of Beta South, a networking organization for digital start-ups in the Los Angeles area, last year. (Jones is at the start, talking about the differences between Silicon Valley and Southern California.)
And if you want to read an informative and solidly reported piece on Van Natta–and are perplexed as BoomTown is by factually-challenged and agenda-stuffed diatribes of some about him–try out this one in The Wall Street Journal today.
Here is Jones in my video: