Top Microsoft Exec Plans Exit

Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft's business division, announces his intent to retire in September.

Jeff Raikes, considered to be the number three executive at Microsoft for more than 25 years, announced Thursday that he will retire come September.

Raikes, who is currently president of the Microsoft Business Division (MBD), will be replaced by an executive from outside the company's ranks -- Stephen Elop, who until today was chief operating officer (COO) at Juniper Networks.

Elop was previously president of worldwide field operations for Adobe Systems, a role he got when Adobe bought out his former company, Macromedia, in 2005, where he was president and CEO.

MBD is one of three product divisions in Microsoft's current organization. The other two are the Platforms and Services Division, headed by president Kevin Johnson, and the Entertainment and Devices Division, led by president Robbie Bach.

MBD, which includes Office, and the company's Dynamics business applications, brought in $16 billion in revenues last year, according to a Microsoft statement.

There will be a slight reorganization in the shuffle that will have the Server and Tools Business, headed by senior vice president Bob Muglia, reporting directly to CEO Steve Ballmer. Raikes is a member of the company's senior leadership team and will continue in that role until he retires.

Elop will start at the company later this month. Raikes said he will wait to retire until September in order to assure a smooth transition for Elop.

Raikes becomes the second long-term, high-level executive to announce his retirement in the past day or so. A company spokesperson Thursday confirmed that Bruce Jaffe, Microsoft's head of acquisitions will leave on February 29, after 12 years with the software maker.

Despite the fact that he has hardly been known outside of technology business circles, Raikes has played major roles at the company repeatedly over his 26-year tenure.

Whereas much of the company's leadership over the years has had a technical background – chairman Bill Gates, for instance -- Raikes has always been acknowledged as a cool business head, said one long-time Microsoft analyst. "He brought a strong business background to Microsoft," Dwight Davis, vice president at researcher Ovum, told

Gates himself is set to retire from full-time work at Microsoft as of July, so it's not too surprising that other long-term company workaholics might take the opportunity to wind down their roles as well.

"It's not too unexpected that when the top executive [Gates] decides to retire that other execs might also see an opportunity [to leave]," Rob Enderle, principal analyst at researcher Enderle Group, told

Raikes joined Microsoft in 1981, recruited from Apple Computer to be a product manager by now-CEO Ballmer. Over the years he has served in many roles throughout the company.

Among other things he was "the chief strategist behind Microsoft's success in graphical applications for the Apple Macintosh and the Microsoft Windows operating system," according to a bio on Microsoft's Web site.

He was also vice president in charge of Microsoft Office early on, and later served as senior vice president of Microsoft North America. Prior to his current job, he was group vice president of Microsoft's worldwide sales and support. Raikes is also one of the co-owners of the Seattle Mariners professional baseball team.

One of the reasons Microsoft settled on Elop may be his work history, suggested Enderle.

"The Macromedia experience is going to help him," he said, pointing to Microsoft's current efforts with its Silverlight cross-platform, cross-browser media plug-in to compete with Adobe's (formerly Macromedia's) Flash technology.

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