SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) -Software giant Microsoft Corp. said on Friday it hired away Steve Berkowitz, the chief executive of rival Internet company Ask.com, to head Microsoft’s own Internet business.
Effective May 8, Berkowitz succeeds David Cole, a 20-year Microsoft veteran, who is set to begin a one-year leave of absence, Microsoft said in a statement. He had outlined his plans in a memo to employees in February.
Berkowitz is credited in the industry with orchestrating the turnaround of Ask.com, the Web search and media business acquired by Barry Diller’s conglomerate, IAC/InterActiveCorp, for $1.85 billion 13 months ago.
Under his leadership, Ask, originally known as Ask Jeeves, enjoyed a revival in its audience and market share gains in the highly competitive Web search business over the past year.
Berkowitz was named the senior vice president of Microsoft’s recently formed Online Business Group, which brings together the operations of Microsoft’s MSN Internet business unit with other consumer businesses within Microsoft.
The group includes MSN.com, MSNTV and MSN Internet Access programming, advertising sales, business development, and marketing for Live Platforms, MSN and Windows Live, with responsibility for generating greater advertising sales.
Microsoft’s Online Business Group competes against rivals such as Google Inc., Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq:YHOO – news), Time Warner Inc.’s AOL unit and Ask.com.
Berkowitz will report to Kevin Johnson, co-president of Microsoft’s platforms and services unit, Microsoft said.
He propelled Ask Jeeves into the contemporary Web search market with the acquisition of Teoma in 2001. He led the redesign of Ask, made the site easier to use by removing pop-up and banner ads and providing greater context on searches.
Revenue more than doubled under his leadership.
Previously, Berkowitz was president and chief operating officer of technology trade publisher IDG Books, where he built a hit consumer brand by expanding the “Dummies” series of books to cover topics ranging from the Web to pet care. He expanded IDG Books by acquiring publishing brands such as Cliffs Notes, Frommers Travel Guides and Betty Crocker Cookbooks.