In a surprising departure, Peter Neupert, a leading force behind Microsoft's foray into new media, is resigning. He is expected to lead a start-up backed by Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, sources said.
Microsoft, for its part, would say only that Neupert will join a "venture-capital partnership as CEO in residence, working with new and emerging companies." It would not identify the venture-capital firm.
Kleiner Perkins declined comment.
Vice president of news and publishing in Microsoft's interactive media group, Neupert was instrumental in the founding of MSNBC online and joint cable ventures, as well as in the management of Slate magazine. He also was in charge of advertising and sales for all of Microsoft's online properties.
He had worked at Microsoft for 11 years in numerous senior management jobs, but now apparently is choosing to trade his corporate life for a more entrepreneurial one.
Microsoft's foray into new media remains unprofitable. The software giant's execution of its lofty plans--as is typical of any new venture--hasn't always been smooth sailing.
Although its editorial material is well respected, Slate has seen a few road bumps. The magazine's plans to charge for subscriptions--a largely untested idea in cyberspace--repeatedly were postponed, though it now charges $19.99 per year. Most recently, Slate editor Michael Kinsley had been a candidate to replace Tina Brown as editor of the New Yorker.
The MSNBC partnership is "going very well," according to a Microsoft spokesman. Both sides recently have been pursuing other partnerships as well, however. Microsoft also is launching its own Internet portal, dubbed "Start."
"Peter did a terrific job," said Microsoft spokesman Marty Taucher. "We're sorry that he's leaving. We wished we could have talked him into staying."
Neupert was not available for comment. In a statement, he said: "Leaving a great company like Microsoft after 11 years is never easy, but the timing and opportunity for new challenges are right for me."