Microsoft loses its Kiwi CFO

Chris Liddell (left) with Don McKinnon during a recent visit to Auckland.

Microsoft has announced that its Kiwi expatriate CFO, Chris Liddell, is to leave the company.

A press statement this morning praises Mr Liddell’s achievements but does not offer any reason for his departure.

An SEC filing states that the CFO is leaving to "pursue other opportunities".

A Microsoft (NAS: MSFT) spokesman told Business Insider that Mr Liddell is "looking at expanding beyond being a CFO." Mr Liddell is apparently looking at chief executive roles, and the private equity space.

"There are no bodies buried or anything like that," said the Microsoft spokesman.

Mr Liddell the one-time chief executive of Carter Holt Harvey, became Microsoft’s CFO in 2005, and has enjoyed nearly uniformly good notices from analysts.

His tenure has seen Mr Liddell lead Microsoft’s first-ever foray into the debt markets and, recently, trimming $US3 billion in costs (including 5800 jobs or about 5% of its global workforce) as the company repositions itself for “the new normal”

"Adorkable"
The University of Auckland grad has also left his mark on the US media.

Today on her Boomtown blog, The Wall Street Journal’s Kara Swisher offers:

“Liddell, 51, arrived at Microsoft in 2005 and many of those years have been tough ones financially, due to the weak economy. It was up to Liddell to have to deliver the bad news at quarterly earnings calls.

“Still [I’ve] always enjoyed his adorkable New Zealand accent, even when it was talking econalypse 24/7”.

Yes, that word she used was 'adorkable'.

His own decision
The Wall Street Journal proper subsequently ran an item saying Mr Liddell "plans to leave the software company by the end of the year to look for a new job."

A Microsoft spokesman is quoted as saying the decision to leave was his own, and that the CFO is "going to take some time to figure out what he wants to do."

Mr Liddell first gained prominence in the US media in February 2008 when The New York Times introduced him as "a former banker from New Zealand" and “the behind-the-scenes architect of Microsoft’s hostile takeover, the company’s first unsolicited bid and perhaps the most audacious attempt by a technology company to wrestle control of a competitor”.

While the takeover bid failed, Mr Liddell remained closely involved with Microsoft’s search strategy, which came to be centred around a relaunch of its own search engine - as Bing.com - and an advertising alliance with Yahoo.

The new guy
Mr Liddell will be replaced by Peter Klein (47), who currently serves as CFO of Microsoft’s Business Division.

The pair will work in tandem until Mr Liddell leaves on December 31.

What he leaves behind
Last year Mr Liddell took a million-dollar pay cut, but still earned $US3.5 million for his services.

Mr Liddell has also been selling some of his Microsoft shares recently, including 8798 during September, realising $US224,788 and two parcels during August, which collectively realised $US791,050.

Recent Chris Liddell coverage:
Chris Liddell takes million-dollar haircut at Microsoft
Microsoft shares up 5% on less-bad-than-expected result
Liddell: cashed-up Microsoft primed for post-recession takeover spree
Microsoft CFO: danger of Great Depression-level meltdown has passed

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3 Comments & Questions

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Perhaps he'll use his swag from Microsoft to help fix the lives of the victims of leaky homes.....thanks to his "turn-around" skills working for the shareholders of the Carter Holts, Feltchers of the untreated-but-hugely-profitable timber world....but somewhat against 100,000s of Kiwi home owners?
That would be nice.
Particularly if he were to get Sir Selwyn Cushing, Sir Wilson Whineray, soon-to-be Sir John Hood etc to join him in this philanthropy....or, if you like, a fine in lieu of the prison sentences they should have got.

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over rated. Left a lot of damage in his wake with poor NZ decisions as above. Also Microsoft must be thanking god that his last purchase decision of another company fell over...

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Kara Swisher got it right with adorkable! The word applies to more than his accent. I am surprised that Microsoft took so long to see through him. The mess that he left in New Zealand at Carter Holt has benefited Graeme Hart who wasted little time in dismantling the overly complex organisational structure and slashing unnecessary staff numbers.

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