Last updated: July 5, 2013 2:48 pm

Microsoft reaches agreement with Sinofsky

Steven Sinofsky©Bloomberg

Steven Sinofsky, who led the development of the criticised Windows 8 operating system before leaving Microsoft last November, has been given shares worth $14m.

The former executive will receive all of his unvested stock awards granted June 2012, and half of the possible shares for his performance in the following fiscal year, Microsoft said in a regulatory filing.

In the first nine months of the 2013 fiscal year, Microsoft’s operating income declined 4 per cent, although its share price rose 13 per cent.

In total, Mr Sinofsky will receive 418,361 shares, worth $14.2m at today’s share price. Their actual value will depend on the prevailing market price at the time of vesting, which will occur between now and August 2016.

As part of the settlement, Mr Sinofsky has agreed not to disparage Microsoft or accept employment at certain competitors.

Microsoft said that its decision to let Mr Sinofsky benefit from his stock awards, despite his departure before they would normally become available, reflected his “23 years of strong service” at the company, as well as other considerations such as his continued assistance with intellectual property litigation. Employees with 15 years of service who retire at 55 or older get similar benefits, it added.

The abrupt departure of Mr Sinofsky – seen as meticulous, tough and ambitious – was attributed by some observers to a power battle with Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer.

Mr Ballmer subsequently said Mr Sinofsky had “made one of the most amazing contributions that anybody will ever make at any company”.

Windows 8 has drawn criticism for the lack of third-party apps available on it, and for its radical redesign of the Windows interface that initially did away with the familiar ‘Start’ button.

“No product used by so many people in so many different ways is developed “out in the open” like Windows 8 has been,” Mr Sinofsky wrote in a blog post last August.

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