Marketing exec leaves MSN for media start-up

Rob Bennett, director of marketing for Microsoft's consumer and commerce group, resigns his post to join a media start-up, marking the latest executive departure at the company.

A key marketing executive has resigned from MSN, Microsoft's Internet unit, marking the latest executive departure at the company.

Rob Bennett, director of marketing for Microsoft's consumer and commerce group, which oversees MSN, stepped down within the last week to pursue a position with a digital media start-up, CNET has learned.

Bennett confirmed today that he will join in mid-November after taking some time off. offers products and services to publish and distribute digital media.

Bennett, 30, said in an email interview with CNET that the decision to leave the software firm after more than eight years was a difficult one.

"It's always a hard decision to make a move like this, especially since Microsoft is such a great place with awesome people, but for me personally it was time for a change," Bennett wrote.

"I'm a firm believer in constantly learning new things and getting new experiences, and I've wanted to try my hand at helping grow a smaller company for a while now."

Bennett's departure comes as fellow Microsoft executive Brad Silverberg prepares to leave the software firm. In June, Microsoft chief technology officer Nathan Myhrvold began a one-year sabbatical from the company. Similarly, former Microsoft Internet executive Pete Higgins stepped down nearly a year ago.

In 1991, Bennett joined Microsoft's New England district sales office as a systems engineer. He moved to Redmond, Washington, in 1995 to work as a product manager for Windows 95 and later worked on Internet Explorer 4.0 and 5.0, Windows 98, Windows NT Workstation, and Windows 2000.

Since June, Bennett had overseen marketing operations at MSN with codirector Yusuf Mehdi.

Even at his new post, where Bennett will serve as director of product management, he won't stray far from familiar technologies.

Last month, announced its support for Microsoft's Windows Media Broadband Jumpstart initiative, which promotes the company's streaming media technologies.

Bennett's departure is only the latest in an ongoing phenomenon in which big business executives have left their long-time posts to join "dot-com" start-ups.

Former Disney Internet executives Jake Winebaum and Richard Wolpert both left the entertainment giant for small Internet start-ups. Microsoft has seen a few executives head for dot-com firms, including Steve Perlman and Peter Neupert.

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