Microsoft looking to pick Steve Ballmer's replacement by year's end

Microsoft looking to pick Steve Ballmer's replacement by year's end

Summary: Microsoft's board is hoping for a swift end to its search for a new leader.


Microsoft's board is hoping to find the company's replacement to outgoing chief Steve Ballmer by the end of this year, according to Bloomberg.

The board is hoping to find the next Microsoft CEO well before the 12-month deadline for finding a replacement that Ballmer gave when he announced his retirement this August.

The tight timeline highlights the urgency of the board's mission to appoint the right person to lead the sprawling software company, which wants to remain both a consumer and enterprise business, as well as becoming a devices and services business — in effect an attempt to fend off threats from Google, Amazon and Apple by adopting its rivals' strategies

Speculation has been rife over who will replace Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO since 2000, and the only person to lead the company other than founder Bill Gates.

According to Bloomberg's sources, eBay's CEO John Donahoe has declined to be considered for the role, while board members have already spoken with tipped favourite, Ford CEO Alan Mulally, and former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, who is returning to lead Microsoft's devices unit once its €5.4bn acquisition of Nokia's handset business closes.

Other candidates for the role that board members have talked with include former VMWare CEO Paul Maritz, also a top former Microsoft exec who now leads EMC's Pivotal, and Tony Bates, the former president of Skype after Microsoft acquired it.

Last week, Reuters also reported Microsoft's ambition to find its CEO by the end of the year, adding that at least three of the top investors in Microsoft want a "turnaround expert" in the top job, favouring Ford's Mulally and Mike Lawrie, CSC's CEO and former CEO of Siebel Systems.

Microsoft was said to have a list of about 40 people, including internal and external candidates, that it's whittling down. 

Other possible candidates include Satya Nadella, president of Microsoft's server and tools business, former Windows chief Steven Sinofsky, and former Juniuper CEO Kevin Johnson. 

More on Microsoft

Topics: Microsoft, Leadership

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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  • I nominate....

    Carl Ichan
    Alan Smithie
    • I nominate Bozo the Clown

      Can't be any worse than the other bozos on Microsoft's list.

      Ford CEO Alan Mulally... wasn't he the one responsible for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner disaster? Elop... wasn't he the one to cause Nokia to flop?

      I agree they should get rid of the first bozo, but please don't replace him with another one.
      • Wasn't Alan Mulally

        The person who turned Ford around, without accepting a government handout? And only the head of Airbus blame the Dreamliner's hick-ups on Alan Mulally, so we can see how little that opinion matters, since he tried to use that blame as a reason to purchase Airbus products, instead.

        I would hardly call the Dreamliner a disaster, seeing that it has lived up to the promise of it's design. Minor issues like toilets can be easily rectified, and really not a major issue like a wing design flaw would be.

        If he is as bad as you claim, why is Ford very worried he might accept the CEO position at Microsoft?
        John Zern
    • A corporate raider? Why?

      I've seen precious little evidence that Icahn knows how to keep a business running profitably for the long term (his tenure at TWA being the best known counterexample).
      John L. Ries
  • I nominate....

    Owl*Net and Mr. Davidson as co-CEOs.
    Rabid Howler Monkey
  • Microsoft looking to pick Steve Ballmer's replacement by year's end

    That will be a hard decision to make given how popular and powerful Microsoft is. Waiting to see who they will choose as the successor to Steve Ballmer.
    • Pass the Crack Pipe

      Powerful? Not any more.
      Popular? Hardly. Only reason Windows/Office is "popular" is people feel they have no choice. Once they have choice (see iOS/Android) Microsoft is the also ran they have always been.
      • Not true

        There has never been more choice than there is today.

        Nevertheless, if you have to share documents with large numbers of other people, your safe bet is to share Office documents.

        At one time, it was WordStar, then it was MultiMate, then it was WordPerfect.

        Tomorrow it might be iWork, or Google Apps but ...

        The bottom line is that perception is everything and, rightly or wrongly, most businesses, and most consumers choose Office.
        M Wagner
        • Interestingly enough...

          I've been using Open/Libre Office to read and write MS-Office docs for over a decade and it's been nearly that long since any of my colleagues at work have noticed.
          John L. Ries
    • If things were going well...

      ...the choice would be easy; just pick the senior MS exec that appeared to be the most capable. The fact that MS' board is even considering outsiders suggests that things are not going so well (at least the board doesn't think so).
      John L. Ries
      • That is not what looking at outsiders indicates.

        Look at Apple: they went "outside" to get Tim Cook, and groomed him to replace Steve jobs when his time came.

        By your logic, things must not have been going well for Apple at all (or at least the board did not think so), given that they pasted up many highly qualified people within Apple.
        John Zern
        • Please don't forget that Apple went "outside"

          to get John Scully. It cuts both ways.
          Rabid Howler Monkey
        • But...

          ...Steve Jobs personally recruited Cook; it's not like Apple's board imposed him. If things are going so swimmingly at MS, causing the board to have huge confidence in Steve Ballmer, then why hasn't it simply allowed the latter to name his own successor (as Jobs effectively did).?
          John L. Ries
  • None

    None of the candidates mentioned are visionary's and that's what is needed for a Company like this. I do agree the individual also needs to be a "turnaround" expert as well as this Company definitely needs to pivot rather quickly. Some of their decisions recently have been simply awful. This could be because they are trying to move quickly to compete in areas they have so far been non-competitive in. Could be that Steve Ballmer was simply overwhelmed and really didn't know what to do in these new technical areas. He is not a technologist, he is a salesman first and foremost. They simply need a visionary who can articulate the vision effectively and has the passion to see the vision through. The company has the tools and what they need to succeed, they just need the leader to make it happen. As in Apple & Google, I would like for Microsoft to be competitive. They don't have to be the be all end all, neither does Apple or Google, I just want all three to compete. Why? because it benefits the masses if they do.
  • Nobody

    Do the world a huge favor....

    1. Release source code into the wild.
    2. Shut down and return the money to the shareholders.

    The world will be a much better place without Microsoft in it.
    • And the world would do well without your trolls.

      You sound like a child that was told he was not good enough to play with the "big boys", And I believe the world, and ZDNet would be a much better place without your moronic and senseless graffiti plastered all over it.
      John Zern
    • Release the source code into the wild...

      I'm pretty sure that releasing the full source code of Windows would constitute the same crime as releasing a virus or virus kit. It's sick and needs a proper burial.
  • While it's still early in the day...

    ...if MS-boosters really thought that Steve Ballmer was doing a good job, then I would expect a lot of comments calling for the appointment of a Ballmer protege who would stay the course.

    As far as the candidates mentioned go, I think it would be extremely foolish to appoint either Elop or Sinofsky. I have no opinion about the others, but would suggest that running an auto company isn't really good preparation to running a software company.
    John L. Ries
  • Microsoft needs radical rethinking

    The problem is that despite its current financial health, Microsoft is a sinking ship and will require radical rethinking to save it because basically none of its current strategies are working well enough to carry it into the future. Any new CEO will be taking a big gamble if they're leaving a big and cushy job, and the deck will be stacked against them if the current board pretty much prohibits much boat-rocking.

    I'd be surprised if they manage to retain a new CEO who has much to lose, which would mean the board still mostly wants to maintain the status quo, in which case all we can expect to see in terms of change is a bit of deck chair rearranging.
    Asok Smith
  • Hire Elop

    Microsoft can't be saved. Not in the concept of "the mighty Microsoft".

    Elop will make sure everyone is happy while the ship sinks and eventually help board members and top executives distribute the cash among themselves. Why would not board members take this offer? They always do... according to my observation of similar situations.

    If only Bill Gates and Steve Balmer could sell their shares... that is, find someone willing to buy.