It looks like Google is losing yet another executive — Kai-Fu Lee, president of the search giant’s operations in China, who was once seen as the company’s great hope in taking on Chinese search engine Baidu.
Lee’s departure was first reported in the Wall Street Journal, citing “two people familiar with the matter.” Google hasn’t responded to my queries yet, but CNET says it received this statement from Lee: “With a very strong leadership team in place, it seemed a very good moment for me to move to the next chapter in my career.” The Journal says that “next chapter” involves a startup of some kind, a suggestion that’s backed up by a pitch we just received from Lee’s new PR person.
Before coming to Google in 2005, Lee was a corporate vice president at Microsoft, and his departure caused a legal battle between the two companies over whether he was violating a non-compete agreement. (The companies settled.) In evangelizing for Google, Lee reportedly became something of a celebrity, hosting tent revivals with thousands of paying attendees. Despite this, reports suggest Baidu still has more than 60 percent market share in China — the kind of dominance that Google sees in the United States.
Google, meanwhile has also been losing quite a few executives in the last year, leading to some debate about “the end of an era” as it becomes more less dynamic and innovative, and more like, well, a giant tech company.