updated 4/25/2005 6:56:21 PM ET 2005-04-25T22:56:21

Microsoft Corp. said Monday it hired Chris Liddell, chief financial officer at International Paper Co., to become the software giant's CFO.

He'll begin on May 9, replacing former CFO John Connors, who retired in January to join a Seattle-area venture capital firm.

Before International Paper, the world's largest forest products company, Liddell was chief executive officer of Carter Holt Harvey Ltd., the paper company's New Zealand affiliate. (MSNBC is a Microsoft-NBC joint venture.)

"Chris brings great talent and skills, both in finance and in business leadership," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said. "Having been both CEO and CFO of international companies gives him the ability to contribute broadly to our finance, operations and business strategy."

A native of New Zealand, Liddell, 47, said he was drawn to Microsoft by its "tremendous level of optimism, energy and passion for excellence."

Liddell told The Associated Press he was honored Microsoft asked him to interview for the job. "Microsoft is a company with a huge attraction," Liddell said. "I think it's one of ... the great success stories of my generation."

He said he's eager to build on the work Connors did during his five years as the Redmond software company's top financial officer.

"Given Microsoft's track record of innovation, outstanding people and proven ability to create value, the opportunities that lie ahead are nearly limitless," Liddell said.

Joe Wilcox, an analyst with Jupiter Research, said Liddell has big shoes to fill.

"John Connors did a remarkable job," Wilcox said. "He made a lot of changes at Microsoft with respect to how technology was deployed that saved the company a bundle of money."

Traditionally, Microsoft has promoted its many of it top executives from within, Wilcox noted, saying Liddell's appointment sent a message that the company is confident he'll fit in.

As CFO of International Paper, Liddell drove and managed business strategy, including several mergers and acquisitions. He also played an active role in the company's cost-cutting initiatives.

In a separate statement, Stamford, Conn.-based International Paper said Executive Vice President Marianne M. Parrs will become interim CFO while the company seeks a permanent replacement.

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