The news is not surprising since he’d been unhappy at the company for some time and had been a leading candidate for the Yahoo CEO job. “While my time spent has been productive, it feels like the right time to exit,” Jon Miller said in a statement. “I look forward to pursuing new ventures that will lead me back into an operational role.” The company announced today that Miller will leave his post at the end of September as News Corp is about to split into two companies: one entertainment, one publishing. Miller will bean outside advisor to News Corp on digital issues through fall 2013.
Though widely liked and respected, Miller has been News Corp’s Chief Digital Officer since 2009 and unfortunately witnessed Rupert Murdoch pursue mostly unsuccessful new digital initiatives. Miller was News Corp’s key man for repeated efforts to sell Hulu and the point person in wrangling the bids, but those are now on hold. He also presided over The Daily which has proved to be Rupert’s folly and a very public failure and embarrassment that recently slashed staff by a third. Miller also saw the steep decline of MySpace which was the hottest social networking service online when News Corp purchased it in 2005 for $580M. Then it was overtaken by Facebook in 2008 so staff layoffs and multiple redesigns ensued. Finally News Corp unloaded MySpace in 2011 for just $35M.
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Despite Murdoch’s best efforts to screw it up, Miller greatly smoothed the internal synergy and external relationships for News Corp’s digital strategy. “During his tenure, Mr. Miller revamped News Corporation’s digital strategy as the Company transitioned away from standalone owned-and-operated web properties and refocused on digital content distribution and the monetization of its existing brands on emerging platforms,” said a News Corp statement today. “He was instrumental in strengthening News Corporation’s relationships within the technology industry and also oversaw a number of key investments in the U.S. and abroad, most recently stakes taken in Roku and Bona Film Group.”
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Murdoch was quoted as saying, “Jon Miller is a visionary in the digital media industry, and his commitment to News Corp over the last three years has driven us to truly evolve the way millions of people use new platforms to consume news and entertainment. As we prepare for our proposed Company separation, I respect Jon’s desire to return to an operational, entrepreneurial role with a standalone company. He will be missed and I can’t thank him enough for his efforts and many valued contributions.”
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Murdoch’s No. 2 Chase Carey commented: “Jon is a seasoned technology veteran and we’ve benefited enormously from his insights and deep relationships in Silicon Valley and beyond. We wish him the best of luck on his new ventures.”
Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone stunned the entertainment industry in 2006 when he fired CEO Tom Freston. One of the chief reasons for the move was that Freston hadn’t moved decisively enough to buy MySpace, enabling Rupert Murdoch to pick up what was then the most popular social networking site for $580 million. Redstone seemed to think that contributed to the 20% drop in Viacom’s stock price in 2006 up to the date of Freston’s ouster. The CEO’s successor, Philippe Dauman, would “never, ever let another competitor beat us to the trophy,” Redstone told analysts. Redstone told interviewer Charlie Rose that losing MySpace had been “humiliating,” adding, “MySpace was sitting there for the taking for $500 million.”
But who’s laughing now? MySpace has collapsed into a distant also-ran behind Facebook and Twitter. And Murdoch took a bath on MySpace this week. He wanted $100 million for it but sold 95% of his interest to ad company Specific Media for a mere $35 million. Just imagine what would have happened to Viacom’s stock if Redstone’s passion for chasing fads led him to outbid Murdoch. It’s hard to believe that the owner of MTV would have seen what Murdoch didn’t — that social network fans were being turned off by MySpace’s tawdry commercialism as it established itself as a music and entertainment portal. That provided the opening for Facebook and Twitter to position themselves as safer alternatives for people who simply want to connect with friends.
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UPDATE: 3:16 PM: The official release from new MySpace owner Specific Media had an interesting bit of news in it: Justin Timberlake will take an ownership stake in the social-media site “and play a major role in developing the creative direction and strategy for the company moving forward.” It’s unknown how much he is investing in the deal, in which seller News Corp receives a minority equity stake in Specific, but it makes sense in that MySpace had become a de facto music promotions site since being essentially left in the dust by Facebook. Specific Media and Timberlake say they plan to evolve Myspace into the premiere digital destination for original shows, video content and music. ”There’s a need for a place where fans can go to interact with their favorite entertainers, listen to music, watch videos, share and discover cool stuff and just connect. MySpace has the potential to be that place,” Timberlake says in the release. “Art is inspired by people and vice versa, so there’s a natural social component to entertainment. I’m excited to help revitalize Myspace by using its social media platform to bring artists and fans together in one community.”
PREVIOUS, 11:47 AM: It was such huge news back in 2005 when News Corp plunked down $580 million for the web’s hottest social-networking site MySpace. It makes today’s news maybe even bigger: News Corp has agreed to sell the site to ad-targeting firm Specific Media for $30 million-$40 million, the Wall Street Journal is reporting, well below its $100 million asking price. Read More »
News Corp. is in preliminary talks to give control of Myspace to Vevo.com, the site partly owned by top record companies, including Universal Music and Sony Music, according to a Bloomberg report. News Corp. has been looking to unload the social media site, which continues to lose ground, despite … Read More »