REDMOND, Wash., Nov. 21, 2001 — Microsoft Corp. announced Tuesday that executive vice president and general counsel William H. Neukom will step down at the end of this fiscal year, after 22 years at the helm of the company’s legal, government affairs and philanthropic activities.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer named Brad Smith, who has served as Microsoft’s deputy general counsel for worldwide sales for the past five years, to succeed Neukom.
“Bill Neukom has been an extraordinary part of Microsoft’s success and development for nearly a quarter of a century,” Ballmer said. “He has created one of the most respected and capable legal and corporate affairs departments anywhere in the world.”
Ballmer said that a number of factors made this an excellent time for Neukom to hand the legal reins to his successor, including the company’s recent launch of a number of compelling new products and the resolution or significant progress on many important legal issues.
“Bill is the consummate professional, and he leaves our law department and our company well-positioned for the future. After 22 years, it’s time to let Bill hang up his bow-tie and pursue all his other passions, from his family foundation to his many civic duties to his love of baseball and fly-fishing,” Ballmer said.
In addition to the tentative settlement reached with the U.S. Department of Justice and nine states in the antitrust case and the tentative settlement reached Tuesday that would resolve more than 100 pricing class action cases, Microsoft recently has settled legal disputes with Sun Microsystems, Caldera, Priceline, Bristol Technologies, as well as a class action lawsuit brought by temporary workers. The company recently won another important legal victory when a Seattle Federal Court Judge rejected class certification in a case alleging racial and gender discrimination.
Neukom, 60, began handling Microsoft’s legal issues in 1979, as a partner in a Seattle-based law firm led by Bill Gates Jr., the father of a young software entrepreneur named Bill Gates III. Neukom joined the company in 1985. As Microsoft grew, Neukom created a strong and diverse law and corporate affairs department with almost 600 people, including nearly 200 attorneys, working on a wide range of legal, intellectual property, government affairs and community giving activities.
Neukom led the company’s successful seven-year legal dispute with Apple regarding intellectual property rights, as well as the company’s response to the initial antitrust complaints brought by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice and the European Union, which culminated in a consent decree in 1994.
“Twenty-two years ago, when my law partner Bill Gates asked me to do a little legal work for his son’s fledgling software company, I never dreamed what an amazing ride it was going to be,” Neukom said. “I feel privileged to be a part of this dynamic industry and to work with such talented and committed people both inside and outside Microsoft. I feel good about the progress we’ve made on a wide range of issues, and I feel particularly good about the strong team that will continue to address the legal and public policy challenges facing our industry in the years ahead.”
Brad Smith, Incoming Senior Vice President and General Counsel Click for larger image
Ballmer said Brad Smith has the experience and skills to succeed Neukom as senior vice president and general counsel.
“Brad is an exceptional leader who knows our business inside and out. He has done outstanding legal and strategic work in a number of key areas, and he has a strong track record of working collaboratively with government agencies and companies throughout our industry,” Ballmer said.
Smith, 42, has served as deputy general counsel for worldwide sales since 1996, providing legal and strategic counsel to most of the company’s sales and marketing organizations, as well as Microsoft’s subsidiaries in 81 countries. Smith has spearheaded the company’s anti-piracy and anti-counterfeiting efforts, and has managed all competition law, litigation and government affairs work outside the United States.
“I’m excited to have the opportunity to lead the strong legal and corporate affairs team that Bill has established,” Smith said. “I look forward to working with the entire company and to strengthening Microsoft’s ties with the broader industry as we implement the new consent decree and address the broader security, privacy and other issues facing the technology sector.”
From 1993 to 1996, Smith directed Microsoft’s European law and corporate affairs efforts in Paris. Before joining Microsoft eight years ago, he was a partner at Covington & Burling, one of the country’s leading law firms, where he handled for a number of years antitrust, IP and other governmental issues, based in Washington, D.C. and then London. In private practice, Smith represented a wide variety of companies in the computing industry, as well as industrywide trade groups.
The transition plan calls for Smith to assume day-to-day management of Microsoft’s legal and corporate affairs activities in early 2002. Neukom will continue with the company through July 2002 to assist with the transition and ongoing issues.
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