The mysterious disappearance of the Microsoft Senior Vice Presidents

Microsoft is eliminating the "Senior Vice President" title across the company. Here's why, according to company officials.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Titles at Microsoft always are a source of confusion, even for those of us paid to keep tabs on the Softies. But they also are often telling.

In the past couple of weeks, I've been noticing a trend at the company: The Microsoft Senior Vice President title seems to be on its way to becoming an endangered species.

At Microsoft, Senior Vice Presidents have been one level above Corporate Vice Presidents. Within the past few weeks, Microsoft quietly has been shifting the titles of a handful of its top execs from Senior VP to Corporate VP  (or, in a couple of cases, something different). Among those affected: Chris Jones, now Corporate Vice President of Windows Live; Rick Rashid, now listed as Chief Research Officer; Brad Smith, now listed as an Executive Vice President and General Counsel; and Soma Somasegar, newly titled as Corporate VP of the Microsoft Developer Division.

There are still a very few Microsoft execs listed as Senior Vice Presidents on the official Microsoft bio site: Lisa Brummel, head of HR; Chris Capossela, head of central marketing; and Jon DeVaan, head of Windows Development.

A Microsoft spokesperson told me on September 16 that there is a concerted effort to get rid of the Senior VP title and Brummel, Capossela and DeVaan soon would soon become Corporate VPs as well. He said the new titles do not signify demotions or a drop in compensation for anyone affected. He also said there was no connection between Microsoft's recent changes in its review and compensation plan and these title changes.

The official Microsoft statement delivered via e-mail from the aforementioned spokesperson:

"Microsoft has eliminated the title of Senior Vice President. This does not change the level or compensation of any of our executives, it's just part of an ongoing effort to make our title structure as streamlined and consistent as possible.  Streamlining our title system will also make it easier for our senior leaders to move into new roles across the company, as we tackle new opportunities."

Update (September 17): As the spokesperson promised, Brummel, Capossela and DeVaan all now are sporting new titles. DeVaan is a Corporate Vice President now. Brummel is "Chief People Officer." And Capossela is "Chief Marketing Officer."

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