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Microsoft COO Kevin Turner, mainstay of the Ballmer era, departs to lead investment firm

Kevin Turner, the high-energy chief operating officer who led Microsoft’s global sales and marketing teams, bluntly challenged its rivals, and was once considered a candidate to become its chief executive, is leaving after more than a decade at the Redmond technology giant to become the CEO at Citadel Securities.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made the announcement in an email to employees this morning, and outlined a series of internal changes that Nadella said would “more deeply integrate” the current sales, marketing and services team into the rest of the company and “form one unified senior leadership team.”

“Kevin has made a tremendous impact at Microsoft over the past 11 years,” Nadella wrote. “He built the sales force into the strategic asset it is today with incredible talent while at the same time more than doubling our revenue and driving customer satisfaction scores to the highest in company history. I have learned a lot from Kevin over these past few years and wish him all the best as he takes on this broader CEO role.”

Like former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who hired Turner from Walmart in 2005, the departing Microsoft COO was in his element on stage at the company’s massive sales and partner events — pulling no punches in his comments about competitors.

“There are no happy Siebel customers in the world, you all know that,” he said at the company’s 2011 Worldwide Partner Conference. “And we can go win every single one of those. But now we’ve got this humongous pacifier to stick in the mouth of (Salesforce CEO) Marc Benioff called Dynamics CRM Online. Which is a really, really beautiful thing for us, for both partners and Microsoft.”

At another event, he talked about getting “the greatest single phone call” he’d ever received in his business career, when Apple’s legal department called to complain that Microsoft’s Laptop Hunter ads were out of date because Apple had lowered the price on a Macbook by $100. “I did cartwheels down the hallway,” he said. “At first I said, “Is this a joke? Who are you?” Not understanding what an opportunity. And so we’re just going to keep running them and running them and running them.”

That type of rhetoric doesn’t fit in at Microsoft in the Nadella era, as the company has forged partnerships with many of its longtime rivals — including Benioff’s Salesforce — even as it continues to compete with them.

In recent years, Turner seemed more pragmatic about the challenges faced by Microsoft, saying in 2014 that even though Microsoft still had 90 percent of the PC market, its real market share was 14 percent, taking into account the entire world of devices. “The reality is the world’s shifted, the world’s evolved,” he said at the time. “We now measure ourself by total device space. We have a much bigger opportunity than we’ve ever had in the past to grow our business, but we have to rethink how we look at our business.”

Citadel said in an announcement that Turner would start at the company after a short transition period, also becoming vice chairman of the Citadel parent company.

In a video interview made public by Citadel, Turner noted that Microsoft’s revenue has grown from a little more than $30 billion to the mid-$90 billions during his tenure at the company.

“We’ve built an incredible team here, a team with a very bright future, so I’m very excited about turning it over to some very capable folks,” he said. “Because I’ve always built a career around hiring, training and developing people better than yourself. I think that’s one of the most important attributes that a leader has, and I really look for that, and look for great things from Microsoft in the future.”

Here’s the full text of Nadella’s memo on Turner’s departure.

From: Satya Nadella
To: Microsoft All Employees
Date: Thursday, July 7, 5:00 a.m. PT
Subject: Senior Leadership Team Update

I want to share with you that Kevin Turner has been offered the opportunity to become chief executive officer at Citadel Securities and as a result will leave Microsoft. Kevin has made a tremendous impact at Microsoft over the past 11 years. He built the sales force into the strategic asset it is today with incredible talent while at the same time more than doubling our revenue and driving customer satisfaction scores to the highest in company history. I have learned a lot from Kevin over these past few years and wish him all the best as he takes on this broader CEO role.

For the past year, Kevin and I have spoken a great deal about the transformation we are enabling our customers to drive. We have come a great distance, and we need to continue to reach for the next level of customer centricity and obsession in everything we do — sales, marketing, services and product development. It’s very important to have “one feedback loop” across all parts of the company with customer value and satisfaction at the center. This means we must operate, learn and continuously improve collectively. To this end, with Kevin’s departure, I have made the decision to more deeply integrate the current SMSG organization into the rest of Microsoft and form one unified senior leadership team. As a result, I am pleased to announce the following changes are effective immediately, and I appreciate that Kevin will stay with Microsoft through the end of July to help with the transition.

Jean-Philippe and Judson will report directly to me and join the senior leadership team starting today. Jean-Philippe will take full accountability for the Microsoft North America business also starting today, and Judson will remain as acting lead for day-to-day operations until a replacement for him is announced. Together they are working on a plan for the functions comprised in today’s Worldwide Marketing and Operations team, given it will span both of their organizations in the future.

This year, I had the opportunity to visit more than 20 subsidiaries across five continents where I saw firsthand how each subsidiary team drives business in the context of Microsoft’s mission, ambitions and culture as well as our core ethos of adding economic value and opportunity in every country and society we operate in. These teams are doing great work, and I think we can position them even better for the future.

There is no doubt the world is changing — and Microsoft must evolve with it and ahead of it. Microsoft’s mission is universal, and I believe our values and high ethical standards are timeless. But we must apply them in a world that demands more solutions that are local in nature. Growing globally requires local capability to leverage all of Microsoft’s innovation, marketing and operations in the context of local opportunities and partnerships while overcoming constraints. This means we must do better at surfacing and trusting the insight from local teams on what it takes to drive our customers’ success. At the same time, we must empower the local teams with world-class global support.

When it comes to our Worldwide Commercial Business we have an unparalleled opportunity to translate our products into customer solutions, drive new partner momentum and help businesses of all sizes in every country not just use digital technologies but become digital companies themselves.

The senior leadership team and I all agree that each subsidiary needs to maintain the financial accountability to deliver on today’s commitments while gaining new capability and flexibility for local innovation and optimization to drive long-term growth. I’m thrilled to have two talented leaders, promoted from our field organization, step forward to join the senior leadership team with their depth of experience in our current business and shared passion to drive transformation.

Please join me and the senior leadership team for a special All Employee Q&A today at 8:30 a.m. PT. We look forward to sharing more and taking all of your questions.


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