Microsoft shake-up turns former political operative into head of strategy

According to a handful of reports, Microsoft will wave goodbye to top-ranking executives Tony Bates and Tami Reller, and promote former political operative Mark Penn to head of strategy. 

A man uses a Nokia phone powered by Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system.

Early last month, Microsoft's board selected longtime company man Satya Nadella as its next CEO, thus ending a search that had begun in 2013, with the announced resignation of Steve Ballmer. Now Mr. Nadella's Microsoft is reshuffling some of its top executive posts. 

According to a report in Re/Code, Tony Bates, the executive vice president of business development – and a former president of the Skype division – will soon exit the company, as will Tami Reller, the executive vice president of marketing. Meanwhile, Mark Penn, a pollster and political operative closely tied to the family of former President Bill Clinton, will be named head of strategy for Microsoft. 

Mr. Penn, who joined Microsoft in 2012, is currently the executive vice president of marketing and strategy. 

It's worth noting that Re/Code has sourced its report to "numerous sources close to the situation," and that Microsoft has not officially commented on the speculation. Still, since the initial Re/Code article, a handful of other outlets, including Bloomberg News, have published similar allegations – the kind of critical mass that indicates that Re/Code made have it right. 

"[If] you spin it one way for the controversial former political operative," Re/Code's Kara Swisher wrote of the purported Penn move, "it is a promotion and if you spin it another, it’s a demotion. In the new set-up, he will apparently look at new product areas and strategic investments for Microsoft. So, overall, it seems like a pretty lateral move to me, but with less teeth (and Penn can sure bite!)." 

As the New York Times notes, Penn is the man behind the Scroogled line of apparel, which poked fun at Google's privacy policies. "Do you use Google Search?" reads the product description for a "Scroogled" T-shirt. "Or Gmail? Or Google Chat? Or Chrome? Then Google is watching you… all the time." 

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