Microsoft shakes up online team ahead of Yahoo

Microsoft Corp announced a management shake-up at its loss-making online division on Thursday, thrusting an outsider into a prominent position ahead of a proposed merger with Yahoo Inc.

Brian McAndrews, the former CEO of the aQuantive digital advertising company that Microsoft bought last year, will assume greater responsibilities at the company's online services unit, taking over much of the duties of division head Steve Berkowitz. He will leave Microsoft in August, the company said in a statement.

While Microsoft also promoted two other executives to senior jobs in the division, the reshuffle suggested to some that McAndrews, 47, will likely be in a top leadership position in the combined Microsoft-Yahoo, should the Web pioneer accept Microsoft's $41.8 billion buyout offer.

"If anyone is going to lead Microsoft out of its problems online, it's going to be McAndrews," said Matt Rosoff, analyst at independent research firm Directions on Microsoft. "He's the person who has the most experience in advertising and they are going to lean pretty heavily on him."

A Microsoft spokesman said the leadership changes were unrelated to the Yahoo negotiations, noting that seven other executives were also promoted to senior vice president.

A former ABC television executive, McAndrews is expected to play a central role in integrating Yahoo's advertising platform into Microsoft and creating a digital advertising powerhouse to rival Google Inc.

He ran aQuantive for seven years, developing relationships with advertising agencies, advertisers and Internet companies.

Yahoo has rejected Microsoft's unsolicited bid, saying the offer undervalues the company. Microsoft has said its offer is "full and fair," but analysts expect the company to sweeten its price to clinch a deal.

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