Microsoft leaving MSNBC.com join venture

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Microsoft is leaving the joint venture that owned MSNBC.com, freeing the world's largest software maker to build its own online news service.

The breakup announced late yesterday dissolves the final shreds of a 16-year marriage between Microsoft Corp. and NBC News, now owned by Comcast Corp. The relationship began to unwind in 2005 when Microsoft sold its stake in MSNBC's cable TV channel to NBC.

NBC is buying Microsoft's 50 percent interest in the website for an undisclosed amount. MSNBC.com will be rebranded as NBCNews.com. Microsoft initially invested $220 million in the MSNBC joint venture.

Readers who logged on to MSNBC.com late yesterday were redirected to NBCNews.com. The website will move its headquarters from Microsoft's campus in Redmond, Wash., to NBC News in Manhattan, though it will retain significant staff in the Seattle area.

The online divorce stemmed from the partners' desire to gain greater control over their digital destinies. Microsoft had grown frustrated by contract terms requiring it to exclusively feature MSNBC.com content on its own websites.

Microsoft is preparing to launch its news service this fall, said Bob Visse, general manager of MSN.com. -- AP

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