* MySpace co-founder DeWolfe to step down
* Ex-Facebook COO may replace MySpace CEO -reports
* News Corp shares close slightly higher (Updates with News Corp statement that DeWolfe to step down)
NEW YORK, April 22 (Reuters) - Rupert Murdoch's News Corp NWSA.O said on Wednesday that MySpace co-founder Chris DeWolfe will not be renewing his contract and will step down from the chief executive post.
DeWolfe will continue to serve on the board of MySpace China and be a strategic advisor to the company, News Corp said in a statement. It said the decision was “by mutual agreement.”
News Corp may be courting a former top executive at social network Facebook to replace the chief executive and co-founder of its top rival MySpace, All Things Digital, a media and technology website, reported on Wednesday.
News Corp’s recently appointed digital chief, Jonathan Miller, had been considering getting rid of DeWolfe, Peter Kafka reported on Wednesday afternoon on his Media Memo blog, which is part of All Things Digital.
News Corp officials have been gauging former Facebook Chief Operating Officer Owen Van Natta’s interest in replacing him, Kafka reported.
News Corp’s Miller is also in discussions with the company’s other co-founder, Tom Anderson, about assuming a new role in the organization, News Corp said in a statement. Their contracts are set to expire this fall.
The possibility of DeWolfe’s departure was first reported by Michael Arrington on his TechCrunch blog on Tuesday.
Van Natta did not return a telephone call seeking comment.
News Corp has been trying to freshen MySpace -- once viewed as evidence of News Corp Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch’s willingness to embrace the Internet generation after a life in newspapers -- as its revenue growth has slowed and Facebook grows ever more popular.
Facebook is trying to catch up to MySpace in the United States, where it has 54.5 million monthly unique visitors versus 76 million for MySpace, according to figures released by Comscore in March.
Facebook’s growth rate outstripped MySpace at the time. It already has surpassed MySpace in worldwide users.
Earlier this year, MySpace lost three executives including former chief operating officer Amit Kapur after they resigned to begin a startup company.
MySpace also has a $900 million search-advertising deal with Google GOOG.O that expires in June 2010. Several financial analysts have said that there is little chance that Google would continue its relationship with MySpace.
News Corp shares rose 2 cents to close at $7.78 on the Nasdaq stock market. (Reporting by Robert MacMillan; Editing by Gary Hill)
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