How did Justin Timberlake — who in last year's movie "The Social Network" portrayed a pivotal figure in the history of Facebook's phenomenal growth — wind up owning part of rival social network Myspace?
It's all about connections.
Nicole Winnaman, president and founder of entertainment branding firm Winnaman & Associates, learned a little more than two weeks ago that Irvine-based advertising network Specific Media was in talks to acquire Myspace from News Corp. The executive, who has paired musicians like Justin Bieber, Britney Spears and Pink with well-known consumer brands, approached Timberlake's manager with a proposal to take a stake in the struggling Myspace as part of the new owner's attempt to bring sexy back to the once-dominant social network.
Last Friday, even as Specific Media was hammering out deal points with News Corp. over its $35-million acquisition of Myspace, the digital media company's founders — brothers Tim and Chris Vanderhook — met with Winnaman and Timberlake's manager at the futuristic Encounter Restaurant at Los Angeles International Airport to talk about a potential partnership. Timberlake joined the meeting by phone.
On Monday, the Vanderhooks boarded a flight to New York to meet Timberlake in person the following day. By Tuesday night, lawyers for Timberlake and Specific Media were racing to close the partnership deal in time for Wednesday's acquisition announcement.
"I don't think anyone slept for 72 hours," Tim Vanderhook recalled.
Timberlake's manager, Johnny Wright, said his client — whose career spans many forms of media, including music, film and television — recognizes the power of social media in shaping pop culture. In "The Social Network," Timberlake portrayed Sean Parker, an Internet entrepreneur who helped Facebook Inc. founder Mark Zuckerberg secure financing for his fledgling website.
In the case of Myspace, Timberlake made his own undisclosed financial investment, according to Wright.
Timberlake declined to be interviewed for this story, but Wright insisted: "This is not a vanity ownership. He wants to make it relevant in a big way."
Neither Timberlake's team nor Specific Media would offer any particular plans for revitalizing Myspace. But Vanderhook said he and his brothers understand digital advertising and how to move traffic on the Internet. He said he hopes Timberlake will be able to give the flagging site renewed social relevance.
"Justin is a tremendously bright guy who is really passionate about the opportunity for artists to build a community with fans," Vanderhook said. "He's excited about the platform and the ability to interact with his fans. He's well aware of the all the unique opportunities that digital media affords someone like him. He will use the platform himself and show other artists how to use it"