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The curse of MSN strikes another MS VP

9 June 1999

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It was five years ago today... There was a time when the life expectancy of an MS exec could apparently be measured in days. It was all a bit like Caligulan Rome with bloody assasinations and mysterious disappearances, although Bill Gates never, to our knowledge, appointed his favourite horse to the board. Of course, this being the 20th century, errant management could not be obliged to take hemlock or fall on their sword. Chillingly, though, a far worse fate awaited - they were moved to MSN awaiting execution:

The curse of MSN strikes another MS VP

By John Lettice
Published Wednesday 9th June 1999 16:16 GMT

Another Microsoft executive has been "disappeared" - this time it's John Ludwig, VP of the consumer and commerce group, who's signed-up for an extended leave of absence. Ludwig was involved in the development of IE, and has left a number of fingerprints in the trial transcripts. But more recently he drew the Microsoft lemon job, which included responsibility for the Microsoft Network.

Consumer and commerce is the sort of nebulous poison chalice that tells you somebody at Microsoft is probably trying to tell you something. Ludwig therefore seems to have decided to fall on his headhunter, and is taking a three month leave of absence to "spend more time with his family and consider new opportunities." The casualty rate at MS seems to have ramped somewhat since Steve Ballmer took the helm. All parties concerned deny that Ballmer is organising firing squads, but when we saw him a couple of weeks back we couldn't help noticing the crazed look in his eye and - grief - how much he's started to resemble Uncle Fester these days.

We've now got Brad Silverberg largely out of the loop (he's allegedly back as a part time consultant, no longer a major mover and shaker), Ludwig's old boss Pete Higgins on extended leave, and both of the Myhrvolds, Cameron and Nathan, out. Cameron resigned, while Nathan steadfastly maintains he's on a year's sabbatical, and he's coming back. As he wasn't there very often when he wasn't on sabbatical, his return, if it happens, could be exceedingly difficult to spot.


Well, Silverberg turned up in March 2000 at the helm of Ignition, "a sort of post-PC VC outfit specialising in wireless". On board were Cameron Myhrvold and - no surprises here - John Ludwig. Cameron's brother Nathan also had a cash interest in the venture, which we described at the time as "an interesting group of former MS execs with a shared shady past".

Fast forward to right now and Ludwig is still with Ignition, as are Myhrvold and Silverberg. And what a cheerful bunch they look. Happily ever after? It looks that way. ®

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