Software giant Microsoft Corp. said on Friday it hired away Steve Berkowitz, the chief executive of rival Internet company Ask.com, to head Microsoft’s own Internet business.
Effective May 8, Berkowitz succeeds David Cole, a 20-year Microsoft veteran, who is set to begin a one-year leave of absence, Microsoft said in a statement. He had outlined his plans in a memo to employees in February.
We mentioned the Cole LOA when it was announced.
Berkowitz was named the senior vice president of Microsoft’s recently formed Online Business Group, which brings together the operations of Microsoft’s MSN Internet business unit with other consumer businesses within Microsoft.
The group includes MSN.com, MSNTV and MSN Internet Access programming, advertising sales, business development, and marketing for Live Platforms, MSN and Windows Live, with responsibility for generating greater advertising sales.
The Online Business Group was created in the March reorganization of Microsoft’s Platform and Services Group and reports to Kevin Johnson.
Berkowitz is credited in the industry with orchestrating the turnaround of Ask.com, the Web search and media business acquired by Barry Diller’s conglomerate, IAC/InterActiveCorp, for $1.85 billion 13 months ago.
Under his leadership, Ask, originally known as Ask Jeeves, enjoyed a revival in its audience and market share gains in the highly competitive Web search business over the past year.
Previously, Berkowitz was president and chief operating officer of technology trade publisher IDG Books, where he built a hit consumer brand by expanding the “Dummies” series of books to cover topics ranging from the Web to pet care. He expanded IDG Books by acquiring publishing brands such as Cliffs Notes, Frommers Travel Guides and Betty Crocker Cookbooks.
All good experience, I’m sure, but he’s going to have his work cut out for him propelling Microsoft to the top of the online bigs.