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At Microsoft periodic reshufflings of the players and the executive hierarchy are a way of life.
CEO Steve Ballmer is the only executive at Microsoft who seems immune to forces that have led to sometimes-unceremonious departures of his underlings. As he puts the finishing touches on a reorganization to align the corporate structure with the stated reshaping of the company from a software vendor to a purveyor of products and services, here’s a look at some recent high-profile separations, the reasons for them and where those involved ended up. (Usually they land on their feet; they have a lot of talent.)
Until July 1, Don Mattrick was president of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business, but then PC games maker Zynga announced he had been named its CEO effective July 8. Mattrick spent more than six years in the interactive entertainment business at Microsoft, steering Xbox to the top spot among gaming consoles in North America and boosting Xbox Live memberships from 6 million to 48 million. Rumors say he wasn’t destined for a job upgrade or worse was squeezed out of the impending executive reshuffle being worked on by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Ballmer’s in charge of Xbox for now.
In a move that seems to self-motivated, CFO Peter Klein decided to “step away” from Microsoft at the June 30 end of its fiscal year. He worked for 11 years at the company, acting as CFO for most of the last four. He says he wants to spend more time with his extended family. CEO Steve Ballmer, in announcing Klein’s departure, issued no cryptic messages about ulterior motives. “I have really enjoyed working with Peter, and appreciate his many contributions to the finance organization, to Microsoft and to me,” Ballmer wrote in an email to the company’s workers.
Vice President of Corporate Strategy and Development Andy Lees precipitously took a sabbatical in June with the promise to announce his new position at Microsoft later this summer. So far no word. Immediately before being tapped for the VP job last December Lees was in charge of the Windows Phone organization within the company. He has been with the company or its U.K. division for 23 years.
Just two weeks after launching Windows 8 and Microsoft Surface tablets, Steven Sinofsky, then president of the Windows and Windows Live division, quit. While rumors swirled about whether he wanted to be named heir apparent to CEO Steve Ballmer or whether his abrasiveness finally caught up with him, so far he’s been writing a blog, Learning by Shipping, in which he talks mainly about management. After he left the company reinstated $14.3 in stock awards for performance and incentives in return for his promise not to disparage or compete against Microsoft.
After his father died this spring, Tony Scott decided to resign from the post of CIO at Microsoft. He stepped down in early June. He’s says he’s going to help settle his mother, get his airplane pilot’s instrument rating and work on personal projects, according to a Geekwire post. Apparently there were no hard feelings on Microsoft’s side. It issued a statement that read in part: “We thank Tony for his contributions and wish him well.”
Now a software engineer at Facebook in the U.K., Simon Marlow is a well-respected expert on the programming language Haskell for which he helped write an open source compiler known as The Glorious Glasgow Haskell Compilation System. He did that work while employed at Microsoft Research in Cambridge, England. He says he left the company last fall to finish writing a book about Haskell, and at the time had the Facebook job already lined up.
Once the creative director of Microsoft Studios, Adam Orth left the company in April after Microsoft had to apologize for some of his personal tweets. Orth wrote that people opposed to always-on games should “get with the times and get the Internet.” This was just before Microsoft announced that it would require Xbox One to always be on line (a requirement it later rescinded). “I want every device to be “always on”.” he tweeted. In its apology, Microsoft indicated that the tweets might have violated the confidentiality of the Xbox product road map: “We are very sorry if this offended anyone, however we have not made any announcements about our product roadmap, and have no further comment on this matter.”
In 2011 Joe Marini was a member of Microsoft’s Windows Phone team who quit just after posting tweets mostly in praise of a Nokia phone, but a little critical as well. Word was that the tweets somehow violated Microsoft’s policies about use of social media and disclosing confidential information. His resignation was said to head off an impending firing for the violations. A month later he was working for Google, and he tweeted again: “I certainly learned a lot about who my friends are. :-)”
When CEO Steve Ballmer wanted to speed up growth in Microsoft’s Server and Tools Business in 2011, he let go then-president of the business Bob Muglia, who had been running the $14.9 billion (at the time) division for more than three years. He moved on to Juniper, where he is vice president of software strategy and reports directly to CEO Kevin Johnson, for whom he once worked at Microsoft.
When he left Microsoft in May of 2011, Otto Berkes told the Seattle Times he wished for a redo of the Microsoft touchscreen slate prototype program he had worked on. "One of the outcomes of that effort was a change in thinking around Windows and the PC and touch interfaces and hardware evolution,” he said. The quote takes on new meaning in light of what’s happened in the meantime with touch-centric Windows 8 and creation of Microsoft Surface touch tablets. Berkes worked at Microsoft for 18 years and left about six months after his boss, Ray Ozzie, left the company. Now Berkes is CTO of HBO.
The opportunity to run a mysterious startup within Amazon.com lured Charlie Kindel away from Microsoft after 21 years during which he rose to become general manager of the Windows Phone Ecosystem. After he left in the fall of 2011 he created BizLogr, a software company that makes MileLogr, a service that turns calendar appointments into mileage reports suitable for submission to the IRS. The software gleans location data from the calendar entries, figures out how far individuals travel to get from appointment to appointment and totals them. These individuals can claim deductions on their tax returns for the business-related travel. Now he’s working as director of a secret customer-experience software project at Amazon.com.
Emerging Leaders 2019