Redmond Goes to Wal-Mart For COO

Microsoft has hired Kevin Turner, a senior executive from Wal-Mart, as its chief operating officer, filling a position it had largely left open since Richard Belluzzo departed the role in 2002.

Turner, 40, is slated to oversee the company’s sales, marketing and service professionals on a global basis as well as the company’s fulfillment and IT operations. He is also seen as a key executive to help guide Microsoft’s growth strategy.

Turner’s product units will continue to report to CEO Steve Ballmer, who recently promised analysts at the company’s annual financial analysts meeting that Microsoft is “poised for robust growth.”

Turner’s arrival from Wal-Mart, where he is credited with guiding the retailing giant’s strategy and nimble use of technology, comes as Microsoft readies the release of its next-generation Windows, now named Vista, which is currently in beta testing. Also on the horizon for Redmond is the next release of its productivity suite, Office 12.

Before joining Microsoft, Turner served as executive vice president and chief information officer for Wal-Mart, a role in which he oversaw all information systems operations for the company worldwide.

“I’ve worked with Microsoft for years as a customer and when you look at the incredible lineup of innovative products and technologies Microsoft is poised to deliver over the next couple of years, it is a very exciting place in which to contribute and work to change the world,” Turner said in a statement.

Turner will begin his new job on Sept. 8 and plans to work closely with Kevin Johnson, current group vice president of worldwide sales, marketing and services at Microsoft, in order to smooth the transition.

Johnson will continue in his role through Microsoft’s fiscal quarter ending Sept. 30, according to the company. Following the transition, Johnson will be named to a new senior executive role.

During his tenure as president and chief executive officer of Sam’s Club (Wal-Mart’s warehouse club operation with over $37 billion in annual sales), Turner was responsible for all SAM’S CLUB locations in the United States.

He is credited with helping to keep the discounter competitive with discount retailing rivals.

Turner gets a hefty bonus for walking away from Wal-Mart. According to a filing by Microsoft with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Turner gets an on-hire payment of $7 million, in addition to 320,000 shares of Microsoft common stock (one-quarter vesting on September 1, 2008, one-quarter vesting on September 1, 2010, and the balance vesting upon retirement from the company at age sixty or older).

As an “at will” employee, his base salary is $570,000 per year.

“I am extremely excited to have Kevin join Microsoft’s executive leadership team, where we will benefit immensely from his experience, proven record of success and passion for technology,” Ballmer added.

“More than ever, Microsoft’s growth opportunities abound as a result of our strong product innovation pipeline. Kevin’s leadership of global technology, sales, marketing and services will help ensure we harness this potential and fully realize the growth opportunities before us.”

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