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paidContent:UK understands Ward left two weeks ago. Reasons are unclear. Microsoft Advertising’s sales director Chris Maples, who came aboard when Microsoft acquired Drivepm, of which he was VP, will fill Ward’s shoes as acting commercial director “for the foreseeable future”.
“Chris Ward has left Microsoft to pursue other opportunities. He leaves the business after more than 13 years with the company.
“During this time Chris has made a significant contribution to the business, where he held such roles as Editor of MSN and Head of Business Development. Most recently, as Commercial Director, Chris has played a pivotal role in developing the Microsoft Advertising division, taking on overall responsibility for all digital marketing revenue.
“Chris has exceptional experience in the online and media world and we wish him all the very best for the future.
“Chris Maples will continue as Acting Commercial Director for the foreseeable future.”
Microsoft unified its consumer and online divisions in August 2008, giving Ward expanded commercial oversight. But Ashley Highfield, who joined in November 2008 to head the combined unit, “overhauled its advertiser and publisher solutions group” -which handles the Drivepm ad network, Atlas server, Screentonic mobile wing and Massive in-game ads house – NMA says.
A former journalist, Ward joined the nascent MSN as head of content to form a news site in 1996, later becoming biz dev director in 2002 and then to commercial director.