Troubled Startup Magic Leap Appoints Former Microsoft Executive Peggy Johnson As Chief Executive Officer

Former Executive Vice President of Business Development at Microsoft, Peggy Johnson has been appointed as the new Chief Executive Officer of startup Magic Leap.

The troubled augmented reality headset startup has had a tumultuous year so far, facing bankruptcy and laying off most of its staff in April. Magic Leap secured $375 million in funding, giving it a second life, albeit at the cost of its former Chief Executive Officer, Rony Abovitz.

In May, the company announced that "now is the time to bring in a new CEO who can help us to commercialize our focused plan for spatial computing in enterprise," reads a staff memo obtained by Business Insider.

Johnson will start at Magic Leap in August and is tasked with turning the company around at a critical time. In an interview, she revealed that she had reached out to Abovitz following the announcement, as she saw opportunities in Magic Leap's technology.

"Since its founding in 2011, Magic Leap has pioneered the field of spatial computing, and I have long admired the relentless efforts and accomplishments of this exceptional team. Magic Leap's technological foundation is undeniable, and there is no question that has the potential to shape the future of XR and computing," she said.

It's a significant blow to Microsoft, who will lose one of their three female executives who were part of CEO Satya Nadella's senior leadership team. Nadella had recruited Johnson from Qualcomm as one of his earliest executive hires following his appointment as Chief Executive in 2014. Here, Johnson oversaw business development, major partnerships, and led its acquisitions, including the 2016 buyout of LinkedIn for $26.2 billion.

"I chose this," she said. "It really says something that, at this point in time, I would leave Microsoft to go to this space, because Microsoft is doing quite well."

Founded by Abovitz in Florida, Magic Leap has accumulated almost $3.5 billion in venture funding from investors like Alibaba, Google, Andreessen Horowitz, and Fidelity. Today the company is valued at $6.4 billion.

"We have come a long way, from starting up in my garage to creating a new medium and redefining the future of computing. Now, under Peggy, who brings with her to Magic Leap three decades of experience identifying and executing strategic partnerships at the highest levels of business, Magic Leap can take another giant step forward in our journey," said Abovitz.