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Microsoft loses top executive in China

Li Gong is leaving the software giant to return home, CNET News.com has learned.

Ina Fried Former Staff writer, CNET News
During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley.
Ina Fried
2 min read
Li Gong, one of Microsoft's top executives in China, is leaving the software maker, CNET News.com has learned.

Gong on Wednesday told News.com that he would be leaving Microsoft in two weeks and that he planned to "go home." Outside of saying he would return to Beijing, he declined to elaborate on what his plans are.

Li Gong
Li Gong

"Li Gong is currently exploring other career opportunities," Microsoft said in a statement to News.com. "Microsoft greatly appreciate Li's contribution to Windows Live China and supports his decision. We believe that the leadership, strong team and long term commitment to innovation will continue to drive Microsoft forward in China."

Gong joined Microsoft in 2005 from Sun Microsystems, where he had served as both head of Sun's China research efforts and as a chief architect of Java. In a September 2005 Business Week interview, Ballmer touted Gong as one of several key hires that Microsoft had made.

Most recently, Gong has served as managing director of Windows Live China and as vice president of Microsoft China R&D Group.

Gong's name came up in the case over Kai-Fu Lee, the top Microsoft executive whose hiring by Google sparked a multistate legal battle. In Microsoft legal documents, the software maker said that Lee recommended Gong be hired quickly, in part because he may have already been approached by Google.

Lee e-mailed colleagues about Gong on May 6, 2005: "There was some indirect suggestion that he may have talked to Google about starting a China operations (sic). So we should move quickly."

According to court papers, the next day Lee e-mailed Google CEO Eric Schmidt, saying he heard that Google was starting a China effort.

Google announced in July 2005 that it was hiring Lee. Microsoft immediately filed suit

in Washington state court. Google later countersued in California court. Microsoft settled with Google in December 2005, without releasing terms of the pact.

The software maker said Gong's responsibilities have been picked up by Friedbert Wall, a 15-year Microsoft veteran. Wall, who was previously the senior director for Windows Live China Shanghai, has been named managing director of Windows Live China.

CNET News.com's Joris Evers contributed to this report.