Media Lifeline: Microsoft

Chris Maples is the latest sales head to walk away from the computer giant.

August 2008: Chris Dobson, who joined from ZenithOptimedia in 2001 to head up the development of MSN outside the US, leaves to join BBC Worldwide. His move makes Chris Ward, the Microsoft UK commercial director, the company's ad sales boss.

December 2008: In July, Microsoft had confirmed Ward's status as it reorganised its ad sales efforts into a new Microsoft Advertising division, with Chris Maples appointed as Ward's head of sales. Later in the year, Ashley Highfield, who'd joined Microsoft as its UK managing director from the BBC-led Project Kangaroo in November 2008, simplifies the sales structure and strengthens Ward's position.

November 2009: Having earned a threemonth sabbatical (offered to all Microsoft employees with a decade or more of active service), Ward takes off in the summer of 2009 to explore the world - most notably Costa Rica's colourful and exotic jungles. He's expected back towards the end of the year with his batteries suitably recharged - but he shocks Highfield when he tells him he is not returning to his former job.

December 2009P: The role is handed to his deputy, Maples. As the commercial director at Microsoft Advertising, Maples' new role encompasses advertising across all of the company's products and services, including MSN, Bing, Xbox Live and Hotmail.

January 2011: Maples, who'd seemed in a buoyant and upbeat mood during the Christmas party season, resigns in mysterious circumstances, with insiders speculating that he probably has no career plans - but merely wants to spend more time with his children. Maples says: "I only made the decision at Christmas. I have no career plans yet. I am just looking forward to spending more time with my children."

Fast forward ...

September 2011: Highfield had extended his remit to cover ad sales - aided by the former TV and cinema ad sales veteran Martin Bowley, employed on a two-day-a-week basis. But, following a spectacular sales jolly, which involved flying a plane-load of top media buyers to the Caribbean for a week, Bowley resigns. It is later revealed that some of the buyers have failed to return - and are, in fact, lost in the Costa Rica area.