RICHARD BARTON: Microsoft's Expedia

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They've got a name at Microsoft for people like Richard Barton. They call them "intrapreneurs."

Mr. Barton said he always wanted to run his own business, and now he has the chance as general manager of the travel business unit at Microsoft, which includes the online travel service Expedia

Mr. Barton is making the most of his opportunity, with a reported 50,000 people visiting the site each month and transacting more than $1 million in business, of which Microsoft gets about a 9% share. Mr. Barton expects the site will sell more than $100 million in travel goods and services in 1997.

Mr. Barton's unit has also cut deals with the likes of American Express and Northwest Airlines to provide online travel service support and is aiming to be profitable in two years.

Expedia got its start more than three years ago when Mr. Barton was put in charge of producing a line of CD-ROMs covering vacation travel. Recognizing the problems of the CD-ROM marketplace, Mr. Barton said, he "had a hard time making an argument for that business."

So during his first review with Microsoft Corp.'s CEO Bill Gates, he suggested they move the idea online. Coincidentally, shortly after that the Internet got hot.

Mr. Barton admits to being a closet geek: He was one of the first kids in his neighborhood to own a Radio Shack TRS "trash" 80, an early PC. But he also has the business background to guide his unit, which now has 100 employees.

After graduating from Stanford University in 1989, he worked for two years with Boston-based Alliance Consulting Group.

"It eliminated the need for me to go to business school," Mr. Barton said. "It was really more like a business boot camp."

Betcha didn't know: Mr. Barton is an avid outdoorsman and fly fisherman. After his stint at Alliance Consulting Group, he chose between careers at outdoor clothing maker Patagonia, fly fishing gear retailer Orvis Co. and Microsoft Corp.

Vital Stats:
Title:General manager of travel business unit, Microsoft Corp., Redmond, Wash.
Age/bio:30, born in Chicago. B.S. in industrial engineering, Stanford University, 1989.
Career highlights:Strategy consultant, Alliance Consulting Group, 1989-91; various product management roles on Windows 95, Windows 3.1, MS-DOS 6 and MS-DOS 5 operating systems, Microsoft Corp., 1991-94; current post, 1994-.

Copyright July 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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