LONDON: After just four months in the hotseat at Project Kangaroo, Britain's online video co-venture, chief executive Ashley Highfield has succumbed to the siren call of Microsoft and will become UK managing director of the software titan's online and consumer division.

His imminent departure will create a yawning gap at Kangaroo which is co-funded by the BBC's comercial unit BBC Worldwide, ITV and Channel 4.  

Kangaroo will package archive video from all three partners, plus catch-up content from ITV and Channel 4, for viewing online. Initially intended to launch late this year, it will offer over 10,000 hours of recently-aired and archive content via the web.

But the marsupial's launch leap has been temporarily hobbled by UK competition regulators.

At the behest of the Office of Fair Trading,the Competition Commission is investigating claims by media rivals - notably NewsCorp-controlled satellite monopoly BSkyB - and others that such a concentration of programme content could constitute unacceptable market power.

Highfield is anxious to dispel speculation that his imminent departure amid the throes of an antitrust investigation is driven by frustration at regulatory delays or strife among the funding partners.

He is adamant that his defection is "not in any way me thinking or knowing something [adverse] about Kangaroo".

"It's much more about the pull of the Microsoft job than the push of any frustrations here. If for any reason Kangaroo didn't happen I'd be kicking myself for ever that I hadn't taken the Microsoft job."

While a departure date has yet to be agreed with the three Kangaroo stakeholders, Highfield says he will "not leave them in the lurch".

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff