Former Microsoft executive Qi Lu.

Chinese search engine company Baidu has managed to hire nine-year Microsoft employee Qi Lu as its Chief Operating Officer. Lu left the Redmond giant in September following health issues caused by a biking accident. The hire is a big change, but Lu’s leading work on Bing and Yahoo should be an asset to the Chinese web services firm.

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

“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 will be acting as COO and group president, in charge of products, technology, sales, marketing, and operations. According to a Baidu press release, the former Microsoft exec will take up his new position immediately.

“I am delighted to join Baidu,” said Lu of the hire. “Baidu is well known as one of China’s top technology companies, and is already recognized on the global stage as a leader in AI. I am excited to help realize Baidu’s visionary AI strategy. To be part of Baidu’s evolution into a world-class technology company for the AI-era is a tremendous opportunity. Under Robin’s leadership, I look forward to working with the entire Baidu team to create a true global technology leader.”

Key Microsoft Advisor

Despite Lu’s health issues, he was working as a personal advisor to Microsoft’s Bill Gates and CEO Satya Nadella. This new hire will come as a blow to the company, then. Lu drove advancements in some of the Redmond giant’s biggest products, including Bing, Skype and Microsoft Office.

Qi Lu previously held a huge a role in Yahoo, but was planning to leave for China even then. However, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer hired him personally. His experience and contacts were key in forming a partnership between Bing and Yahoo.

It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, then, to see Lu heading back to his home country. He has taken on no small role, and his expertise will be instrumental if Baidu is to become a leader in AI.