Microsoft CFO Drives Off To GM

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Microsoft CFO Chris Liddell will become the vice chairman and chief financial officer of General Motors in 2010, with plans to step down from his position at Microsoft on 31 Dec.

Microsoft CFO Chris Liddell will become the vice chairman and chief financial officer of General Motors in 2010, according to a 21 Dec. statement released by the auto company.

Liddell is leaving Microsoft on 31 Dec. As chief of Microsoft’s finance organisation, he oversaw acquisitions, corporate strategy, treasury activities, tax planning, accounting and reporting, internal audit, and investor relations. Presumably, he will perform similar functions at General Motors, although the statement did not delineate the particulars of his new position.

“Chris brings a depth and experience to this job that were unmatched in our search for a new financial leader,” Ed Whitacre, General Motors chairman and CEO, said in the statement. “Chris will lead our financial and accounting operations on a global basis and will report directly to me. We’re also looking to his experience and insights in corporate strategy as a member of the senior leadership team in helping our restructuring efforts.”

Although Microsoft experienced a challenging year in 2009, its problems are arguably eclipsed by those of General Motors, which has lately seen sales of many of its vehicle lines fall precipitously along with its revenues and employee headcount.

The position of vice chairman, one can surmise, will give Liddell increased boardroom leverage to enact any ideas about corporate restructuring. For some executives, that could be worth a move from the Pacific Northwest to Detroit.

Liddell was named one of the “25 most influential people at Microsoft” in an eWEEK article, which described him as running “one of the fiscally tightest ships on the planet” and continuing “Microsoft’s long tradition of frugality while embracing a new era of risk.”

As the recession battered Microsoft’s revenues throughout 2009, the company enacted several cost-cutting measures under Liddell’s watch, including laying off 5,000 employees.

In an 23 Oct. earnings call, Microsoft reported revenues of $12.92 billion, a 14 percent decline year-over-year from 2008, but nonetheless still stronger than expected. Liddell said during the call that the company had maintained cost discipline, “which allowed us to drive strong earnings performance despite continued tough overall economic conditions.”

But economic conditions don’t get much tougher than at General Motors.

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