Microsoft CEO Watch: Mullaly Out of the Running?

Front runner Alan Mullaly, CEO of automaker Ford, may not take over for Steve Ballmer when he retires.

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Ford's CEO, Alan Mullaly, may not let go of the wheel at the automaker in time to succeed Steve Ballmer when he retires from Microsoft.

Mullaly, considered the frontrunner in Microsoft's search for a new CEO, will stay with Ford throughout 2014. Bloomberg reported that Edsel Ford II, board director at Ford and great-grandson of the company's founder, said the exec "is staying through the end of 2014 and that's all I know."

Despite vague statements issued by Mullaly in the past about the possibility of joining Microsoft, his stance is apparently crystal clear among Ford's board. "Frankly, he has told us that his plan is to stay with Ford through the end of 2014," added Edsel Ford.

Mullaly, preferring to keep the spotlight trained on his company's newly announced 2015 model of the iconic Mustang, said, "There is no change to the plan," during an interview with the financial news organization.

On Aug. 23, Ballmer announced that he would exit Microsoft within 12 months. "There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time. We have embarked on a new strategy with a new organization and we have an amazing Senior Leadership Team," said Ballmer in a statement, referring to the software company's new "One Microsoft" strategy and a major reorganization effort that the company kicked off in July.

Edsel Ford's comments suggest Mullaly will still head Ford long after Ballmer vacates his position. And Microsoft's selection committee, which includes influential co-founder Bill Gates, is reportedly focused on announcing a new CEO before year's end.

The candidate pool is dwindling further, according to PC Pro's Shona Ghosh. Ex-Microsoft staffer Paul Maritz, CEO of cloud computing specialist Pivotal and the former chief executive of VMware, considers himself too old for the job.

During the opening of Pivotal's European headquarters in London, Maritz is quoted as saying, "I'm happy to say I took my hat out of that ring very early on. I'm 58 years old and I'm not up for that journey." ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley noted in her report that Ballmer is 57 and Mulally is 68.

If Mullaly is indeed out of the running, attention may turn to Satya Nadella, head of Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise computing group, who along with Mullaly, is considered a top contender.

Nadella's group delivers "the 'Cloud OS,' Microsoft's next-generation backend platform," according to the company. In addition to powering "all of Microsoft's Internet-scale cloud services," the company asserted in Nadella's executive bio that his team's technology "also fuels global enterprises around the world to meet their most challenging and mission-critical computing needs."

Silicon Valley, meanwhile, is hoping that Tony Bates, former president of Skype, which Microsoft acquired in 2011 for $8.5 billion, will get the nod. In her Nov. 29 report for All Things D, Kara Swisher wrote that "more than a dozen tech leaders in Silicon Valley, as well as several top Microsoft execs I have talked to over the last week, have a single choice to lead the company: Tony Bates."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...