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owenvannatta022008.pngOwen Van Natta, one of the first “adult” executives at Facebook, is leaving the company, apparently to find somewhere else where he can be chief executive, reports Kara Swisher.

Van Natta, who’s leaving the company as its chief revenue officer and vice president of operations, has tended to be a more cautious decision-maker than chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and other company leaders, sources have told me. Facebook’s style of product development has long tended towards being fast and sometimes incomplete — a strategy that has caused both rapid innovation and mistakes.

Its developer platform has undergone numerous, live changes that have sometimes irked the third-party developers who use it. Its new advertising initiatives like Beacon, meanwhile, have come under criticism for invading users’ privacy.

Regardless of managerial differences that I’ve heard about, the parting appears to have happened on pleasant terms, with Van Natta saying that he hopes to work together with Facebook in the future (after he starts at a new company), and Facebook thanking him for all his hard work.

Van Natta started out as the company’s chief operating officer in late 2005, moving over from a vice president position at Amazon — he had intended to become a CEO during this time. Instead, his Facebook job had him running much of the operating and financial parts of the business during its early stages of growth. But during a management shuffle last summer, his title changed to his new VP job, which appears to have been a demotion in terms of his responsibilities (our coverage).

That change happened during a larger management shuffle, around when former YouTube executive Gideon Yu joined as chief financial officer and former AOL executive Chamath Palihapitiya joined to take over marketing and some monetization and operations initiatives.

Van Natta’s departure now marks another round of reshuffling, with some long-time Facebook executives getting promoted and others apparently not. Most likely this is a sign of the company maturing to manage its operations. The company will be spending more than $200 million on infrastructure and will double its workforce to around 1,000 people this coming year, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg reportedly said recently.

The only formally announced management change is that Matt Cohler, formerly vice president of strategy and operations, will now be promoted to vice president of product management. Cohler, who joined Facebook before Van Natta, will oversee product development and will work closely with the engineering team at the company — responsibilities that Van Natta has, in part, held.

There are also other management changes happening now. Co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, formerly the vice president of product engineering, now just has the title “co-founder” on the list of the company’s managers. Mike Murphy, a veteran advertising executive who has been serving as the company’s vice president of sales, will become its chief revenue officer, according to his iMedia profile here (Van Natta is still listed as the company’s CRO on its management page; Murphy isn’t listed at all). Murphy will also take on “international responsibilities,” Zuckerberg tells Swisher, with business development head Dan Rose also joining the upper level of management.


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