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Microsoft taps former Sony exec as European Xbox leader

The software giant has hired Phil Harrison, Sony's former head of worldwide studios, to run operations in Europe. That includes its three British game studios Lionhead, Soho and Rare.

Former Sony executive Phil Harrison has joined Microsoft to lead its European business, overseeing British-based game developers at Lionhead Studios, Soho Productions and Rare.

And while the hire comes just a week after Fable creator Peter Molyneux left Lionhead and Microsoft, the company has said that the moves are unrelated. Harrison joins as a corporate vice president in its Interactive Entertainment Business (IEB).

Phil Harrison, Sony Sony

"As the senior IEB leader in Europe, Phil will not only lead the Microsoft Studios European organization directly, but will also influence the broader performance of IEB's European business through strategic partnerships and by bringing culturally relevant entertainment experiences to Microsoft platforms, now and in the future," the company said in a statement.

Microsoft declined to comment beyond the statement.

Harrison held several senior spots at Sony, including president of worldwide studios. He's also served on the board of Infogrames and as president of Atari as that company moved into online gaming. Most recently, Harrison has served as general partner of London Venture Partners. He will continue as a special advisor to the venture capital firm.

"I am really impressed with the company's long-term vision for growing the market for interactive entertainment globally and also with the incredible wealth of talent, technology and resources the company has available to succeed," Harrison said in a statement.

Even though Harrison's hiring comes so shortly after Molyneux left for a new venture, Microsoft said Harrison's role would be different from Molyneux's job.

"Is Phil Harrison replacing Peter Molyneux?... No," tweeted Xbox marketing executive Larry Hyrb. "Phil's role on the IEB leadership team is completely unrelated to Peter's departure."

In addition to overseeing the British studios, Harrison will also help guide Microsoft's gaming strategy in the mobile and social networking worlds.

"Phil has played an instrumental role in shaping modern console history through his keen insights into both hardware and software strategy," Don Mattrick, president of the Interactive Entertainment Business division, said in a statement.