Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

MySpace Musical Chairs: Will the Partovis Stay or Will They Go Now?

While there have surely been a lot of departures of talent at MySpace over the last year, including two major shifts in top management, one of the more interesting guessing games of late concerning the social networking company has been over the fate of well-known tech wunderkinds Hadi and Ali Partovi.

According to many sources inside and outside the company, that’s just the discussion the pair of serial entrepreneurs has been having with its newest leaders, as well as with News Corp. (NWS) digital head Jon Miller.

(News Corp. owns MySpace, as well as Dow Jones, which owns this site.)

In all likelihood, said sources, the Partovis will remain at MySpace for the next several months, although they are likely to move eventually to more senior advisory or special-project roles there in order to pursue longtime outside investing and entrepreneurial interests.

“They’re definitely staying for now,” said one source. “But it’s the ‘how’ is what’s being worked out.”

There are many shifting scenarios as the sides hash it out, said sources, but MySpace execs are keenly interested in avoiding the appearance that the company is in the grip of a talent drain, especially with such high-profile innovators.

Still, in an interview with BoomTown at MySpace’s Beverly Hills, Calif., HQ earlier this week (you can see part of that chat in the video below), Co-President Jason Hirschhorn said that there are likely to be a lot more departures at the company, as well as arrivals.

“It’s normal in a situation like this,” said Hirschhorn, quite correctly, given the wringer MySpace has gone through over the last year.

The Partovis arrived in the midst of turbulent change at MySpace, after its original CEO and co-founder, Chris DeWolfe, was suddenly tossed out and replaced by CEO Owen Van Natta, as well as COO Michael Jones and Chief Product Officer Hirschhorn.

As part of its new strategy to become an entertainment hub, MySpace bought the Partovis’ struggling social music start-up, iLike, last summer in a deal engineered by Van Natta.

After it closed, Hadi (pictured left) became an SVP of technology, mostly working in MySpace’s Seattle office, and Ali (pictured right) became its SVP of business development, mostly based in San Francisco.

But Van Natta suddenly got the boot in January, after clashing with Miller, as well as Hirschhorn and Jones, sending MySpace into yet another storm.

Hirschhorn and Jones were then named co-presidents.

While several sources said the Partovis are not unhappy with the pair or with the new MySpace media-centric strategy, the brothers sold the company with the idea of working with Van Natta.

“That firing reset things,” said one source close to the situation.

In addition, the pair have wide-ranging interests outside the company, including an active investment portfolio in such start-ups as Facebook, Dropbox, Opower, BlueKai and Flixster.

They have also already scored big with investments in Tellme, which was sold to Microsoft (MSFT); Zappos, which was acquired by Amazon (AMZN); and IronPort, now owned by Cisco (CSCO).

And though iLike was not the success they had hoped for, their entrepreneurial record is strong. Ali Partovi sold LinkExchange to Microsoft, and Hadi Partovi, who also worked at Microsoft, co-founded Tellme.

That said, with talent-retention packages in place for both Partovis, and good will between them and the new leaders, the sides are trying to come up with a workable arrangement.

MySpace declined to comment, but The Clash sure will (as well as Jones and Hirschhorn, below):

[T-shirt photo courtesy of Zazzle.com]

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work