Microsoft names new CFO to take over May 9

Outsider Chris Liddell will replace John Connors as CFO

Microsoft has named Chris Liddell as its new chief financial officer (CFO). His first day on the job will be May 9, the Redmond, Washington, software company said late Monday.

Liddell previously served as CFO at International Paper. Prior to that, he was chief executive officer of Carter Holt Harvey, International Paper's affiliate in New Zealand.

Liddell is replacing John Connors, who announced in January he was leaving the job to become a partner at Seattle-area venture capital firm Ignition Partners. At the time, Connors said he would help with the transition, and he formally left Microsoft on March 31. Connors served as Microsoft's CFO for five years and was employed by the company for 16 years.

Some analysts had speculated that Microsoft would most likely name an internal employee as CFO, due to a perception that Microsoft has not had much success hiring high-level executives from outside the company.

Liddell's new job is something of a double-edged sword, according to Philip Carnelley, research director at U.K. analyst company Ovum. While he faces the luxury of overseeing Microsoft's $35 billion cash reserve and net income of around $1 billion per month, the high-profile slot will also place him under intense scrutiny.

"The appointment of a CFO from the paper industry -- a mature cyclical industry -- rather implies that despite public protestations, Microsoft recognizes that it is indeed a mature company in a mature industry and needs to be managed accordingly, something John Connors alluded to in January," Carnelley said in an e-mail assessment Tuesday.

Liddell will most likely continue Connors' efforts to increase shareholder returns, perhaps by continuing his predecessor's move of handing out of billions of dollars in dividends to shareholders, Carnelley said.

"We await the new entrant's moves with interest. One thing we're confident of: he won't be having trouble with debt payments or cash flow anytime soon -- personally or corporately," Carnelley said. "News reports say that he will receive a salary of $500,000 and a signing bonus of $300,000, as well as stock awards to come."

A representative of Microsoft in the U.K. declined to comment on Liddell's compensation package.

Liddell holds an engineering degree from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and a master of philosophy degree from Oxford University in England.

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.