Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Revenge Is a Dish Best Served Via a Cool IPO: The Delicious Irony of Myspace, Zynga and Owen Van Natta

How’s this for irony:

It was less than a year and a half ago that Owen Van Natta was ousted from his job as CEO of Myspace.

But last week — just as the failed social networking site sold for a paltry $35 million — Van Natta could have bought it himself for a fraction of his stake in Zynga, the social gaming phenom that just filed for its IPO and where he’s a top exec and shareholder.

As the San Francisco-based Zynga’s chief business officer, he was listed second after CEO and founder Mark Pincus on its S-1 on the list of top management and also serves on its board.

The filing also showed that Van Natta got about $43 million in total compensation in 2010.

That was due to part of his large Zynga holdings, including about three million shares he owns outright via restricted stock units that Zynga calls ZSUs, as well as 6.75 million more in options priced at a low $6.43 each.

All told, he has a 1.6 percent stake in the company. That could be worth upwards of $325 million if Zynga garners an expected $20 billion valuation. And it could be even more if its public offering pops higher as other recent Internet outings have done.

And that’s why when Van Natta arrives at the fancy and exclusive Allen & Company mogul fest in Sun Valley this week, he might want to thank News Corp. digital head Jon Miller — the man who fired him from Myspace.

After the Myspace debacle in February of 2010, according to its filing, it appears that Van Natta bounced back quickly to enter into a consulting agreement with Zynga in mid-April via his Luminor Group.

By August, he was hired on full time by Pincus and also became a director.

One reason for getting that plum post, Zynga said, was Van Natta’s experience as a longtime Internet exec at Amazon and, more importantly, Facebook.

He left the social networking giant in mid-2007 — where he had served as COO and, later, chief revenue officer — after relations with its CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg became somewhat tense.

But that’s water under the bridge now; and, in fact, the filing was full of information about the close relationship with Facebook, which is a critical one for Zynga.

And, of course, for Van Natta, who gets my award for best Silicon Valley recovery of 2011.

Had he stepped up and bought Myspace from his large Zynga proceeds, though, he would have gotten my lifetime achievement award for pure moxie.

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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