Microsoft CFO: Tough Act to Follow

Chris Liddell, the former chief financial officer of International Paper, will take the reins on May 9.

Days ahead of its Thursday announcement of third-quarter earnings, Microsoft Corp. announced that it has hired paper-industry executive Chris Liddell as its new chief financial officer, effective May 9. He’ll have a tough act to follow.

Liddell replaces John Connors, who announced in January that he would leave the company he joined 16 years ago — he became CFO in 1999 — for Seattle-area venture capital firm Ignition Partners LLC. Connors’s resignation became effective March 31, at the end of the Microsoft’s third fiscal quarter, according to a regulatory filing.

At the time of Connors’s announcement, Reuters reported that corporate controller Scott Di Valerio was a possible successor. Although Microsoft is famous for hiring from within, Connors had recruited Di Valerio away from the controller chair at the Walt Disney Co.; together they restructured Microsoft’s corporate finance department by naming a CFO for each of the company’s seven business units, pushing fiscal responsibility down to the operating level.

Liddell, too, will be joining Microsoft’s ranks from outside. Until his resignation Monday, he was senior vice president and chief financial officer of International Paper Co.; earlier he had been chief executive officer of Carter Holt Harvey Ltd., the company’s New Zealand-based affiliate. Before his 10-year career at International Paper, Liddell was a managing director and joint CEO in the New Zealand offices of Credit Suisse First Boston, reported CNET. He holds an engineering degree from the University of Auckland and a master’s degree in philosophy from the University of Oxford, in England.

Connors’ final compensation was not revealed in Microsoft’s most recent proxy since he was not listed as one of the top five executives. The Wall Street Journal reported, however, that Liddell will receive an annual salary of $500,000, a signing bonus of $300,000, and a stock award of 50,000 shares and that he will participate in a performance-based stock-award program.

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