In a dramatic move, Ashley Highfield is quitting as CEO of the yet-to-launch Kangaroo VOD joint venture after just five months, to join Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) as MD and VP of its UK consumer and online business, we have confirmed. Highfield will also join the board of William Hill next week as it begins creating its own online betting business.
Highfield only started with Kangaroo this July, after stepping down as director of the BBC’s future media and technology division, where he spearheaded iPlayer. The BBCWW/ITV/C4 partnership has appointed Rod Henwood, the former C4 new business director who last year moved over to permanently Kangaroo’s regulatory advice, as an interim replacement; Highfield is staying to hand over.
This is major disruption at a bad time for Kangaroo. The Competition Commission is due to rule by February 8 next year on whether the service will be anti-competitive, but its provisional conclusion is due at the end of this month. Kangaroo is in regulatory limbo, that’s for sure, but the politics are barely more complex than those he contended with at the BBC itself, so why is Highfield quitting? It was simply a better offer, he said in a Kangaroo statement: “I was presented with an amazing opportunity which I couldn