Gordon Frazer, managing director of Microsoft UK, is to switch positions with Michel van der Bel, chief operating officer for Microsoft's Chinese division, in a management shake-up that will see the company focusing more of its efforts in the Greater China Region (GCR).

Ralph Haupter, currently serving as area vice president for Microsoft Germany, has also been promoted to corporate vice president and named CEO for Microsoft GCR, replacing Simon Leung, who has decided to leave Microsoft for personal and family reasons.

“China represents an unprecedented opportunity for growth across the breadth of our business,” said Jean-Philippe Courtois, president of Microsoft International, in a statement.

“I am confident in the leadership abilities of Ralph, Gordon and the extended Greater China leadership team to help us execute on those opportunities and deliver the benefits of technology to many more of the 1 billion-plus people of Greater China.”

Both Haupter and van der Bel will report to Courtois, and Frazer will report to Haupter.

Angela Eager, research director for Enterprise Software & Application Services at TechMarketView, expressed surprise at Simon Leung's resignation.

“We are not aware of any speculation that Leung was planning to leave and he was very much in evidence during the recent launch of Windows Phone 7 in China,” said Eager. “There is a high turnover level for Microsoft GCR CEO’s – something like 6 over the past 16 years we believe – so Leung, who has been in the role since 2008, has had a comparatively long tenure.”

Meanwhile, Eager said that van der Bel's public sector experience will be useful in the UK, where Microsoft has seen revenues grow by 3 percent over the last financial year.

“The dynamics of the UK and GCR markets are radically different. A prime focus in GCR is dealing with sky high levels of pirate software whereas the UK is more concerned with issues of strategic fit, business value, and when and whether to upgrade Windows,” said Eager.

“However, lessons from the dynamic GCR market could inform new methods of execution in the UK.”

Gordon Frazer succesfully piloted Microsoft UK through tough economic times but the company was also embroiled in controversy, with former colleagues alleging foul play and sexism at the firm. One sacked executive said that “drunkenness and outrageous misbehaviour were rife” at the company. The allegations were settled out of court.