The picture at MySpace is getting a little clearer following the rushed unseating of longtime CEO Chris DeWolfe: Owen Van Natta starts work today as CEO of the News Corp (NYSE: NWS) social media flagship, where he will be joined by Mike Jones, founder of Userplane, and, paidContent has learned, by Viacom (NYSE: VIA) vet Jason Hirschhorn, most recently president of Sling Entertainment. (Hirschhorn was part of the Viacom team that famously lost MySpace to News Corp during an M&A duel in 2004.) With Tom Anderson still in place as president, the roles are defined a little differently for now than might otherwise be the case. Jones, as TechCrunch reported, will be COO, while I expect Hirschhorn to lead product developmentuntil now specifically Anderson's turf. Expect more definition as Anderson's position is clarified. The three are meeting in Los Angeles today with MySpace staff.
Update: It's official, announced by Jon Miller, chief digital officer of News Corp., with suitable comments by Van Natta; Jones as COO, Hirschhorn as chief product officer. Press release after the jump.
Jones has ties to Miller and to MySpace. He cofounded Userplane, a web IM and chat firm acquired by AOL in 2006 when Miller was CEO of the *Time Warner* unit for an amount we reported to be in the $30 million to $40 million range. At the time, MySpace was a client and the source of much of the company's revenue. Jones stayed with AOL (NYSE: TWX) as an SVP focusing on making money from social mediasound familiar?and then founded Tsavo Media.
Hirshhorn, was chief digital officer for MTV Networks; he joined MTVN when it acquired his interactive entertainment startup. Hirshhorn was president of Sling Entertainment and launched Sling.com; he left earlier this year along with Sling's cofounders and much of senior management.
News Corporation Expands MySpace Management Team
Michael Jones named Chief Operating Officer; Jason Hirschhorn named Chief Product Officer
News Corporation today announced an expansion of MySpace's management team with two key new hires. Michael Jones has been named Chief Operating Officer and Jason Hirschhorn has been named Chief Product Officer, effective immediately. Mr. Jones and Mr. Hirschhorn will be based in Los Angeles and report to MySpace CEO Owen Van Natta.
Jones has founded and operated several online businesses, including Userplane, a leading provider of tools for online communities such as MySpace. Userplane was acquired in 2006 by AOL, where Jones subsequently served as a senior vice president and focused on social media monetization and also pioneered the distribution of widgets and other technology to Web publishers. Most recently, he was the founder and CEO of Tsavo Media, an online content and search network developing next-generation publishing platforms and technology services.
Hirschhorn has led both start-up and established online businesses. Most recently, he was president of Sling Media, Inc's Entertainment Group, which created consumer-driven applications and services for the Slingbox device. Previously, he was chief digital officer at MTV Networks, where he oversaw the company's digital media businesses, products and strategies. Hirschhorn joined MTV Networks following the acquisition of his company, Mischief New Media, which provided interactive services to the entetainment industry.
"Michael's operational insight and knowledge of the social media market will prove to be a valuable asset as we set out to evolve the MySpace product offering," said Jon Miller, chief digital officer, News Corporation. "From a product perspective, there's no better choice than Jason, who is highly regarded as an incredibly talented innovator, media executive and leader, all qualities I know will greatly benefit our team and our users."
"We were attracted to Michael's unique background in building and operating successful businesses that fall directly in our sweet spot, and I look forward to leveraging his skill set as we further refine and shape the MySpace vision," said Mr. Van Natta. "Jason's reputation for creating compelling consumer experiences that leverage the intersection of technology, design and media is unmatched and we're excited to have him join us."
"I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to build upon the successes of the company's founders and am eager to work with Owen and Jon and the rest of the incredible management team at MySpace as we enter this exciting new phase in the company's already revered history," said Mr. Jones. Mr. Hirschhorn continued, "MySpace is one of the most alluring innovations of our time and I am honored to collaborate with Tom Anderson and the rest of the MySpace team to take what is already a stellar product into its next evolution."
By Staci D. Kramer