Microsoft claimed Thursday it has appointed new chief operating officer, a senior Wal-Mart executive. He will start work September 8.
The executive, Kevin Turner, 40, had a 19-year career at Wal-Mart, where he rose quickly through the management ranks to become the retailer's chief information officer and, most recently, the chief executive of Sam's Club, the company's warehouse club division.
The post of chief operating officer at Microsoft has proved daunting over the years, lucrative yet precarious. The real power at Microsoft resides with its longtime leaders - Bill Gates, the co-founder and chairman, and Steven A. Ballmer, the chief executive.
The company's previous chief operating officer, Richard Belluzzo, stepped down in 2002 after having the job for little more than a year. At the time, Mr. Ballmer sent an e-mail message to Microsoft employees explaining that the job of chief operating officer would not be filled, in part to promote faster decision-making and a more entrepreneurial style in the business units.
Mark R. Anderson, editor of The Strategic News Service, a technology newsletter, was quoted as saying by New York Times: "If it is really going to enter another growth phase, Microsoft needs more management help and more of a structure."
To walk away from his Wal-Mart career, Mr. Turner will receive a hiring bonus of $7 million, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. His employment agreement also includes a grant of 320,000 shares of Microsoft stock, vesting gradually, worth $8.7 million at the current stock price.
Mr. Turner will receive a base salary of $570,000, and he will be eligible for a bonus of up to 100 percent of that. He will also take part in Microsoft's long-term stock compensation program for senior executives, with a target award of 624,000 shares, depending on company performance.
The most successful Microsoft chief operating officer, Mr. Anderson noted, was Jon Shirley, who joined the company in 1983 from the Tandy Corporation and remained until 1990, when he retired. Mr. Shirley, working closely with Mr. Gates and later Mr. Ballmer, helped guide Microsoft through its early rapid growth.
"They've tried numerous times since then to repeat that with other people as chief operating officer, but without great success," Mr. Anderson said. "It's an awfully tough job."