MSN Honcho David Cole Steps Down

MSN honcho David Cole has exited his post, the latest in a string of executive changes at the portal.

The departure of Cole, whose title was SVP, MSN and Personal Services Group, was characterized by Microsoft as a sabbatical.

“David’s decision to take a leave of absence was based on his desire to take a step back from a 20 year career and figure out what he wants to do next,” MSN Global Sales Director Adam Sohn said in a company statement.

But it also appears possible his departure is part of a larger strategy to give the somewhat wobbly portal a fresh start. That strategy also includes the recent appointment of John Nicol to help run MSN, and the promotions earlier this month of Joe Michaels and Rob Bennett to lead entertainment and video services.

After suffering a series of high profile defections last year, the company clearly needs to do something. Last April, Yahoo hired away Scott Moore, MSN’s general manager of programming. And shortly after being named to lead MSN Video as executive producer, Cyrus Krohn also disembarked for Yahoo

Cole’s exit brings a close, or at least a pause, to a two-decades-long career with Microsoft. In addition to his oversight of MSN, Cole has had recent responsibility for the personal services group and .NET offerings. Earlier, he was SVP of the consumer services division and VP of the consumer Windows division.

Microsoft is now seeking a replacement, executives said.