Yesterday, Microsoft’s Yusuf Mehdi, who has been a big figure in the company’s online group for more than a decade, took a new job heading up marketing for the Xbox group.
The move was a little surprising given how long Mehdi has been with the online group, and we were wondering if he was pushed.
We’d heard from ex-employees that online head Qi Lu, who came from Yahoo in 2009, was replacing a lot of long-time execs with former Yahoos, and the search deal between Bing and Yahoo was not paying off. We wondered if Mehdi was a victim.
But a person who has worked closely with Mehdi says that’s not the case at all. In fact, Mehdi was widely respected in the group and Lu was almost in tears when the announcement was made. If Mehdi was pushed, then they’re both great actors.
So why did he jump?
Our source thinks Mehdi still has big ambitions at Microsoft, but lacks one big thing on his resume: running a profitable business.
The Online group loses billions every year and has only had a couple of profitable quarters (before Microsoft started throwing money into search). Meanwhile the Xbox business earned more than $1 billion on sales of about $8 billion last year. Prior to MSN, Mehdi worked in marketing for Internet Explorer, which was all about gaining market share from Netscape, but earned no incremental revenue.
In addition, it seems like the Online group will be led by an engineer for the foreseeable future — Bing is a technical product and needs a technical leader like Lu. Mehdi is not an engineer. So if he ever wants a chance to become a top leader at Microsoft, he’s got a better chance elsewhere.
Finally, Mehdi is fascinated with media content — he knows and loves sports, movies, and TV. With the Entertainment & Devices division poised to build Microsoft’s entertainment centre for the home, and Online looking increasingly like a tech-driven search business, it probably looked like a more interesting place to work.
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