Key executives resign from Microsoft

The company is losing Microsoft Office development director Don Gagne and MSN manager Hadi Partovi.

Microsoft lost two key employees in recent days, one who has led several MSN efforts and another who was a top developer for the Office unit.

Don Gagne, director of development for Microsoft Office, plans to leave the company in December to pursue a car racing hobby. The 11-year Microsoft veteran gave his notice last week, company spokesman Lou Gellos said Tuesday, confirming a report about Gagne's resignation in a blog.

Gellos said Gagne's departure, which comes a month after Microsoft announced a major reorganization, is amicable. The company has yet to find a replacement for him but expects a smooth leadership transition, Gellos added.

Gagne is highly respected at Microsoft with a reputation for no-nonsense leadership, according to the Mini-Microsoft blog.

"This is a super huge loss for Microsoft and a colossal loss for Office (DonGa is in charge of development for all of Office)," an anonymous writer said in an e-mail posted on Mini-Microsoft, a blog about Microsoft's restructuring efforts. "It's been a while since I've been on a team with Don, but he is an engineer's engineer, a voice for reason, and a champion of what is best for Microsoft's customers. While some Microsofties scream and preen and use politics to advance their little agenda, Don has always used quiet reason, common sense, and intellect to make the best possible decisions."

The other executive leaving Microsoft is Hadi Partovi, general manager of the MSN portal. Partovi plans to start his own company, but will remain with Microsoft for a few weeks as a replacement is sought, Gellos said.

Partovi's resignation, first reported in the Seattle Times, comes about a month after Microsoft initiated a companywide reorganization that folded the MSN unit into the Windows division of the company.

Start-ups have lured Partovi, 32, away from Microsoft before. He left the company in 1999 to start telecommunications company Tellme after playing a central role in the browser wars against Netscape Communications at Microsoft. He rejoined Microsoft in 2002 to help shepherd several MSN initiatives including MSN Music, Microsoft's answer to Apple Computer's iTunes music store. He also has overseen the company's news reader service.

Microsoft has confirmed other significant departures in recent weeks. Ward Cunningham, inventor of the Web pages known as wikis, left Microsoft recently to join a nonprofit dedicated to open-source software. Jim Allchin, the company's chief Windows architect, announced his retirement at the same time that Microsoft detailed its big reorganization.

Gagne and Partovi are important contributors at Microsoft, but their resignations are just part of the regular course of business, Gellos said. "When you have a company of 60,000 employees, people are coming and going all the time," he said.

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