— Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer is retiring within
the next 12 months, the company announced Friday.
57, will retire once a successor has been chosen.
original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement
happen in the middle of our company’s transformation
to a devices and services company," Ballmer said in
the news release. "We need a CEO who will be here
longer term for this new direction."
board has appointed a special committee, chaired by lead
independent board member John Thompson, to choose the
next CEO. The committee also includes Bill Gates,
Microsoft chairman; Chuck Noski, chairman of the audit
committee; and Steve Luczo, chairman of the compensation
special committee, which is working with executive
recruiting firm Heidrick & Struggles International,
plans to consider external as well as internal
candidates, according to a news release.
who has been CEO since 2000, has faced criticism for
years about Microsoft’s stagnant stock price and its
falling far behind of competitors such as Apple and
Google in the fast-growing mobile market. More recently,
calls for him to step down have come after the lukewarm
reception to Windows 8, which launched last fall, and
the abysmal sales of the Surface RT tablet, among the
company’s first branded computing devices.
year, he said the company was transitioning into a
devices and services company and earlier this year,
started implementing a major company reorganization to
reach that goal.
recent days, there have been rumblings of more
shareholder pressure for change. Activist investor
ValueAct, for instance, which had disclosed earlier this
year that it had purchased some $2 billion of Microsoft
stock, had reportedly been talking with some Microsoft
board members and large institutional shareholders about
gaining a seat on Microsoft’s board.
an interview with the Seattle Times on Friday morning,
Ballmer talked about his decision, mixing in some
personal reflection about his life and his time with the
has long said that he would retire from CEO when his
youngest son went to college. That hasn’t quite
happened yet — his youngest son is still in high
school. But his middle son is going to college this
in part, prompted him to think that if he waited until
his youngest son left for college, he would leave in the
midst of Microsoft’s big transition.
need to start now" to pick a new CEO, he said,
"so we have a successor in place so we can lead a
multi-year journey, or I would have to sign up long
enough so I don’t leave mid-stream."
said his decision was not prompted by ValueAct or other
shareholders’ pressure for change.
is not on the special committee that will choose his
successor. But as a member of Microsoft’s nine-member
board, he will have a voice — "and I’m never
shy about my opinions," he said.
don’t know how you would find a new CEO without"
getting Ballmer’s input on the company and its
workings, Thompson said in an interview Friday.
said the board has developed a profile of what the ideal
candidate would look like but said it would be
"premature" to disclose any of it.
Ballmer and Thompson praised the company’s current
senior leadership team but declined to say if there were
any leading internal candidates.
said his proudest accomplishment in his decades with the
company, during which time it grew from about 30
employees and $7 million in revenue to almost 100,000
employees and $78 billion in revenue, was in
"giving birth to the notion that people are going
to use intelligent devices for their own personal
I joined Microsoft, my parents asked me two
questions," he said. "My dad asked, ‘What’s
software?’ My mom asked me, ‘Why would a person ever
need a computer?’ "
played "an incredible role in making personal
intelligent devices happen," while also returning
profits and cash to its shareholders, he said.
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asked about the stagnant Microsoft share price, Ballmer
said "I’m not a stock-price focused guy. I’m
focused on: Do we have the right products, winning
single biggest disappointment, he said, was the Longhorn
and Windows Vista saga. Longhorn was the code name of
what became Windows Vista, which was bug-ridden at
we did was take a very talented group of engineers and
tied them up for a long period only to ship a product
that was a net step back, not a step forward,"
Ballmer said. "We had people tied up working on
something that didn’t matter when they could’ve been
working on defining the future. That was, to me, the
biggest mistake. You can’t let your development team
work on the wrong stuff."
write Longhorn down as my single biggest
disappointment," he said, adding that "some of
our challenges today" stem from those years.
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who is married and has three sons, said he intends to
stay in the Seattle area after retiring.
that, he hasn’t made any plans yet, he said.
knew I always wanted one more chapter of my life,"
he said. "I think anyone who knows me knows I’m
all consumed by my family and Microsoft. Other than
playing golf now and then, I don’t have other
passions. Maybe that’s why I say I want another
chapter in my life — to experience something other
than those two things."