Microsoft Wants Ballmer's Replacement This Year: Report

Though it has nearly a year to find a successor for CEO Steve Ballmer, reports indicate that Microsoft wants a new CEO sooner rather than later.


Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer revealed Aug. 23 that he was stepping down from his role as CEO within 12 months. New reports indicate that Microsoft has no intention of letting Ballmer stick around that long.

According to Bloomberg's Dina Bass and Peter Burrows, the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant is currently "winnowing a list of candidates" to replace Ballmer. The goal is to install a new chief executive by year's end.

Off the list is eBay CEO John Donahoe, who declined to be considered, insiders told the financial news outfit. The company is also reportedly soliciting advice from Silver Lake Managing Director Charles Giancarlo, a former Cisco exec.

Steve Ballmer helmed Microsoft for 13 years, taking over from the company's co-founder Bill Gates. After getting the ball rolling on a massive restructuring effort in July—part of the new "One Microsoft" strategy of more tightly aligned business units—Ballmer said that the moment had arrived for him to retire and make room for new leadership.

"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. A committee, which includes Bill Gates and is headed by John Thompson, the board of directors' lead independent director, and executive-search firm Heidrick & Struggles, is tasked with finding the new CEO.

Bill Gates himself is facing calls from top shareholders to step down as chairman. Those seeking his ouster take issue with his role in finding a new CEO to follow Ballmer. They also expressed concerns about Gates' influence over Microsoft as his stake in the company dwindles. Under a divestiture plan, Gates sells about 80 million shares each year, leaving him without a financial stake in Microsoft by 2018.

In its search for a new CEO, the company has already approached Ford Motor CEO Alan Mulally and former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop. Talks were also held with Pivotal CEO Paul Maritz, who previously held positions at EMC, Intel and Microsoft, and Tony Bates, head of business development and evangelism for Microsoft.

Mulally, rumored to be the front runner for the CEO spot, has yet to officially weigh in on whether he would head Microsoft. A Ford spokesman told Bloomberg, "Alan continues to focus on executing the One Ford plan, and we don’t engage in speculation." Based on information from an insider at the automaker, the report states that during a gathering in Dearborn, Mich., Ford directors "are likely to be discussing Mulally's future plans."

"Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford this month touted the abilities of the company’s next generation of executives, while emphasizing the plan for Mulally to remain CEO through 2014," noted the report’s authors.

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...