MSN Hires IAC Exec

NEW YORK Microsoft said the chief executive officer of IAC’s Ask division would join as head of its MSN division.

Steve Berkowitz will become senior vice president of the online business group, which is in charge of MSN and Microsoft’s new ad-supported Live platform.

Berkowitz, a former executive at IDG Books, is credited with turning around Ask Jeeves following the dot-com bust. He improved the quality of its search results and grew its share of the search market. In March 2005, Barry Diller’s IAC paid $1.9 billion for Ask Jeeves, which was subsequently renamed Ask.

“Steve’s management experience, deep functional knowledge of the search and Internet space, and understanding of both the offline and online publishing worlds make him a great choice to lead the online business group,” Kevin Johnson, co-president of Microsoft’s platforms and services division, wrote in an e-mail released Friday.

IAC said Jim Lanzone, senior vice president and general manger of Ask in the U.S., would succeed Berkowitz as CEO.

The hire is Microsoft’s most prominent outsider in its effort to revamp its MSN division and concentrate on gaining a larger share of the online advertising business through ad-supported software and personalization services with Live. Microsoft is testing MSN adCenter, a wide-ranging advertising platform that will begin with search ads, but eventually be used to target ads on several different forms of digital media.

Berkowitz will replace David Cole, who in February announced he would take a leave of absence. He will report to Johnson when he begins May 8.