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The head of ninemsn, the JV between Microsoft and Nine Entertainment Co, Joe Pollard has abruptly left the company as Nine prepares for a strongly mooted A$5 billion float.

Pollard, who has a marketing background, was appointed CEO to the online venture in 2008 amid a flurry of executive departures and staff retrenchments. ninemsn claims a daily audience of around 1.8 million internet users.

"It has been an amazing three years at ninemsn and five years within the group," she said adding that it was "time to move onto the next chapter of my life."

The sudden departure was described by Nine Entertainment CEO David Gyngell as 'disappointing" and comes at a time when the media giant readies for a much anticipated float.

While confirmation of the IPO’s timing has yet to be confirmed analysts have suggested in would take place in Q4 of 2011.

Sources suggest that her departure signals that the float may be imminent as the board looks to appoint a CEO with more financial market experience.

Nine Entertainment Co owners CVC Asia Pacific have been itching to get a return on their hefty investment in the media group, which they executed in 2008 to bail out the debt laden PBL, then 50 per cent owned by James Packer’s Consolidated Media Holdings.

PBL rebranded to Nine Entertainment Co in December and its assets include the Nine Network and affiliate stations, ACP Magazines, the 50 per cent shareholding in ninemsn, Ticketek, Cudo and several digital businesses and a share of Australian News Channel, the parent company of Sky News.

No immediate replacement has been named for Pollard and the ninemsn board will meet this week to determine the process for finding a replacement. ®

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