The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, and the Seattle PI are reporting via anonymous sources that Christopher Payne, VP of Microsoft's Windows Live Search group, is leaving the company to start his own company. A Microsoft spokesperson gave the standard, "we do not comment on rumors or speculation" answer.
Payne has spent 14 years at Microsoft, with a 3-year stint at Amazon between tours of duty. He was one of the leaders in the move to bring search in-house at Microsoft, and reportedly made a pitch in February 2003 warning that it was a mistake to continue doing so. He went on to lead the Windows Live Search initiative, which launched in September.
Earlier this week, Microsoft moved Brad Goldberg, a marketing exec in the Windows Vista division, over to the Live Search division, reporting to Steve Berkowitz.