Microsoft's Next CEO: Ericsson's Vestberg Identified as a Candidate

After a firm "no thanks" from Ford CEO Alan Mulally, Microsoft's board is reportedly considering telecom giant Ericsson's top executive.

Microsoft CEO search

The twisty saga to name Microsoft's next chief executive has taken another turn.

Hans Vestberg, CEO of the Swedish telecommunications company Ericsson, is being considered for the top position at software giant Microsoft following current CEO Steve Ballmer's impending retirement from the company. "Vestberg, 48, is in the running alongside other candidates, said [people close to the search], who asked not to be identified because the process is private," reported Bloomberg Jan. 16.

Ericsson spokesperson Ola Rembe told the news organization, "We never comment on rumors and speculation."

Microsoft is remaining similarly tight-lipped although a company official did break the silence shortly before the new year. Microsoft Director John W. Thompson, who is also chair of the CEO search committee, said that although his company was "focused on finding the best possible person to lead the company," 2013 would come to a close without a new CEO.

"We're moving ahead well, and I expect we'll complete our work in the early part of 2014," said Thompson in a Dec. 17 statement. Hinting of the challenges in finding a CEO to head the sprawling, multifaceted corporation, he echoed Bill Gates, who earlier "noted that this is a complex role to fill, involving a complex business model and the ability to lead a highly technical organization and work with top technical talent."

"Microsoft has had only two CEOs in its 38-year history," Thompson pointed out.

Vestberg and Microsoft have had dealings in the past. "Last September, Ericsson completed its acquisition of Microsoft’s Mediaroom unit, which makes software used by phone companies to deliver TV services via broadband networks," stated the Bloomberg report.

During Vestberg's tenure at Ericsson, the company's share prices have risen roughly 19 percent. Revenues have jumped from "from 206 billion kronor ($32 billion) in 2009 to an estimated 225 billion in 2013," stated the report. Evercore Partners analyst Mark McKechnie described Vestberg as "young, energetic and very visible, and he has Ericsson on the right path."

The news comes after former front runner Alan Mulally, CEO of automaker Ford, took himself out of the running. He told the Associated Press in a Jan. 7 interview that he wanted "to end the Microsoft speculation." He said, "I have no other plans to do anything other than serve Ford."

Vestberg joins a shrinking candidate pool. Currently, it includes Satya Nadella, Microsoft's cloud computing and enterprise software chief; Stephen Elop, former CEO of Nokia; and other unnamed "outsiders."

The elusive, months-long search for a new CEO isn't the only management shakeup to follow in the wake of the sweeping "One Microsoft" reorganization.

Variety’s Marc Graser reported on Jan. 15 that Blair Westlake "abruptly resigned" from his position as corporate vice president of Microsoft's Media and Entertainment Group. The former Universal television chairman has handled media partnerships and entertainment licensing for the Xbox division.

"It has become clear to me that the organization is moving in a direction that does not fit either my expertise or my skill sets," Westlake said in a statement.

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...