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Qi Lu. (Microsoft Photo)

Baidu, the leading Chinese search engine, has hired former Microsoft executive Qi Lu as its group president and chief operating officer, four months after he officially left the Redmond, Wash.-based technology giant. In the new role, Lu will oversee products, technology, sales, marketing and operations for Baidu effective immediately.

A longtime engineer and technology leader, Lu was widely respected at Microsoft, helping to push the company into new areas including artificial intelligence and chatbots. An eight-year Microsoft veteran, he was the top Microsoft executive in charge of Office, Bing and related products before his departure in September.

Robin Li, Baidu’s Chairman and Group CEO, said in a statement, “Dr. Lu possesses a wealth of leadership and management experience, and is a leading authority in the area of artificial intelligence. I am confident that Dr. Lu will make major contributions to the overall strength of our management and technology.”

Li added. “To achieve our goals, especially in artificial intelligence, which is a key strategic focus for the next decade, we will need to continue attracting the best global talent. With Dr. Lu on board, we are confident that our strategy will be executed smoothly and Baidu will become a world-class technology company and global leader in AI.”

Lu left Microsoft “to focus all his time on recovering from health conditions caused by a prior injury,” according to an email from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella at the time. Recode reported that Lu was in a bicycle accident several months prior to his departure.

Microsoft said in a statement today, “We want to thank Dr. Qi Lu for his many contributions to Microsoft during his eight years of service to the company. We wish him the very best in his next endeavor.”

Microsoft executive Rajesh Jha succeeded Lu as leader of the Office group, and the company simultaneously created a new 5,000-person AI and Research Group, led by Microsoft executive Harry Shum.

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