Stephen Elop, president of the Microsoft Business Division, is leaving the software giant to become chief executive of Nokia as the phone maker seeks to become a software company.
Nokia said in a press release late Thursday it has hired Elop to replace Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, who will leave his position as CEO on September 20. Kallasvuo, a 30-year Nokia veteran, will also leave the company's board but remains non-executive chairman of Nokia Siemens Networks.
"The time is right to accelerate the company's renewal to bring in new executive leadership with different skills and strengths in order to drive company success," Nokia Chairman Jorma Ollila said in a statement.
Elop will implement but not change Nokia's fundamental turnaround strategy, Nokia said on its Web site Friday.
"The core strategy is solid and Nokia will continue to power through what is a substantial transformation (from a hardware company to a software company). Elop will help to accelerate that (he's a get-things-done guy) and his fresh eyes and ears will enable him to take a fresh look at big questions as to that strategy is executed," Nokia said. "Stephen's background in the software industry is one of his key strengths. More importantly, his most previous experience has been during times of substantial transformation in large companies."
Microsoft did not immediately name a replacement but confirmed in an update to Elop's biography that his departure is immediate.
Elop is the second Microsoft division president to announce his departure this year. Robbie Bach, head of the Entertainment and Devices unit, announced in May that he plans to leave Microsoft this fall. Microsoft has not named an executive to replace Bach, leaving the heads of Xbox and Windows Phone units to continue overseeing their teams, reporting to CEO Steve Ballmer.
Elop, a Canadian and avid hockey fan, joined Microsoft in January 2008, filling a vacant post long held by Jeff Raikes, who is now CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Before joining Microsoft, Elop had been COO of Juniper Networks and before that was an executive at Adobe Systems, following that company's acquisition of Macromedia, of which Elop had been CEO.
"I am extremely excited to become part of a team dedicated to strengthening Nokia's position as the undisputed leader of the mobile communications industry, with a relentless focus on meeting the needs and expectations of customers," Elop said in a statement. "Nokia has a unique global position as well as a great brand upon which we can build."
Elop has a head start understanding Nokia, the company said.
"Some time ago Nokia announced a partnership with Microsoft and has been collaborating with the company on strategic implementations over the last two years. Stephen Elop lead this partnership from Microsoft's side, so has had substantial exposure to the inner workings of Nokia and gained a very strong understanding of the business. This will enable him to hit the ground running when he joins on September 21," Nokia said.
Ballmer acknowledged the departure in an e-mail to Microsoft workers.
"I am writing to let you know that Stephen Elop has been offered and has accepted the job as CEO of Nokia and will be leaving Microsoft, effective immediately," Ballmer wrote. "Stephen leaves in place a strong business and technical leadership team, including Chris Capossela, Kurt DelBene, Amy Hood and Kirill Tatarinov, all of whom will report to me for the interim."
Ballmer noted that the unit, which includes Office, grew 15 percent last quarter.
"I appreciate the way that Stephen has been a good steward of the brand and business in his time here, and look forward to continuing to work with him in his new role at Nokia," Ballmer wrote. "Please join me in wishing Stephen well.
CNET News reporter Stephen Shankland contributed to this report.
Updated at 11:03 p.m. PDT, and then at 3:25 a.m. PDT September 10 with Ballmer comments and Nokia comments.