Van Natta as MySpace CEO: 'Effective immediately'

The former Facebook executive takes over from outgoing CEO Chris DeWolfe. John Sykes will take over his old role at Project Playlist.

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy
2 min read

It's official: News Corp. has named former Facebook executive Owen Van Natta as MySpace's CEO, following reports on Thursday that an announcement was imminent. Van Natta's appointment is "effective immediately," a release from MySpace said.

Van Natta succeeds Chris DeWolfe, who stepped down from the post earlier this week, reportedly at the request of newly appointed News Corp. digital czar Jonathan Miller. DeWolfe will remain on the company's board.

Owen Van Natta Facebook, via All Things Digital

"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," Van Natta said in a statement. "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."

Van Natta served as chief operating officer of Facebook before he was shifted--some would say demoted--to the position of chief revenue officer and vice president of operations. He left in February 2008 and later took the CEO position at social music start-up Playlist.

John Sykes, a Playlist board member and one of the original MTV co-founders, will take over Van Natta's CEO role there. Van Natta will continue to be an adviser to the start-up--which is interesting, since it technically competes with the MySpace Music service.

"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," Miller said in a statement. "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."

Facebook, Van Natta's old employer, has eclipsed MySpace in worldwide traffic with now more than 200 million active users.

Van Natta's a proven dealmaker. During his tenure as chief revenue officer, Facebook chalked up that whopping $240 million investment from Microsoft. But here's where he might be lacking: entertainment industry cred. With a background at Amazon, Facebook, and several tech start-ups, Van Natta--who will be based in Los Angeles at MySpace's headquarters--probably isn't on the Hollywood circuit. MySpace needs those entertainment connections, some of which come naturally with its News Corp. ownership, because it has a much sunnier future as a pop-culture hub than a social-networking tool.

That said, it's a good first sign that under Van Natta's watch, Playlist started inking deals with major record labels in order to stave off its legal troubles.

This post was expanded at 10:35 a.m. PT.