Mulling Mulally's chances as Microsoft's next CEO

Mulling Mulally's chances as Microsoft's next CEO

Summary: As Microsoft's search for its next CEO continues, new rumors and reports abound.


The rumor mills are abuzz with renewed speculation on who Microsoft's next CEO will be this week.


Reuters is reporting that the Ford board of directors, meeting on December 12, will pressure CEO Alan Mulally -- if he shows up, that is -- to answer directly whether or not he's in the running to replace outgoing Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Mulally's handlers have been in non-denial denial mode.

The Ford board allegedly want a more definitive statement. The reason, as Reuters reports, citing "one source close to Ford's board": "People don't write about Mustang, they don't write about earnings, they write about Mulally."

AllThingsD's Kara Swisher, who had been one of the first to publicly predict Mulally was in the lead candidate on Microsoft's next-CEO list, delivered a brand-new prediction today: VMware's CEO Pat Gelsinger.

Former Microsoft Distinguished Engineer Hal Berenson, author of the insightful Hal2020 blog, weighed in with his own guess on Microsoft's leadership plans. Berenson said he is expecting Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates could step down as Microsoft Board Chair in a year, with Mulally taking up that spot.

Oh yeah, and just to add one more rumor to the pile, some are wondering about the coincidental timing (or not) of former Microsoft Server and Tools chief Bob Muglia's departure from his Executive Vice President post at Juniper Networks earlier this week. Might Muglia be coming back to Microsoft for a bigger job? (My gut says no on that one.)


The reason Mulally's been considered a strong candidate for Microsoft CEO -- for those who are wondering -- is Ballmer consulted him for management advice. As others have pointed out, the "One Ford" strategy championed by Mulally bears a passing resemblance on many fronts to the "One Microsoft" strategy espoused by Ballmer. One Ford is all about "one team, one plan, one goal." If you're curious about Mulally's high-level management thinking, check out this recent McKinsey & Co. interview with him.

Might Microsoft go the dual-CEO route? Might they opt for a senior, high-profile manager to work hand-in-hand with a tech visionary type? Might a consumer-focused CEO and an enterprise-focused one be appointed in tandem?

As I've said before, I admit I have no idea who is in the lead for consideration as Microsoft's next CEO or when that person will be named. I don't know if or when Gates plans to step down as Chair. And I'm not sure anyone beyond the Microsoft search committee has any real idea at this point, either.

Topics: Steve Ballmer: The Exit Interview, CXO, Microsoft


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • The two CEO thing

    was something BlackBerry did. It was an efficient thing that played to Balsillie and Lazardis's strengths during the good times, but arguably got in the way when things went south.
    • Dual CEOs would be a mistake

      One person has to be in charge for effective accountability. If there are two CEOs, it just bumps ultimate responsibility back to the Chairman.

      Even in the old Roman Republic, the senior Consul was de facto chief executive with his junior colleague as his principal deputy (except that each consul had veto power over the decisions of the other).
      John L. Ries
    • Best wayto destroy a company....

      .... or organisation is to have two or more CEOs, who would eventually create their own entourages. A short period of respect and self-discipline, will be followed by war of attrition among the groups that will render the company or organisation useless.

      If Microsoft wants to fail, they should appoint two CEOs and then wait the company sink.
      • Dual CEO's??

        From working with Silly Valley companies over many years, it always seems that one of the major "jobs" of those CEO's is to make sure that the fewer "equals" or "wannta' be's" in the food-chain, the better. Keeping the underlings at arm's reach from power always works, but sharing power takes a special "team spirit" that very few individuals can manage for long.
        Somebody wins, somebody loses...
      • Exactly.

        "ONE Microsoft" with TWO heads would be an aberrant creature indeed.
    • BB is a rare example

      RIM enjoyed astronomical growth in the absence of Android as the only alternative to the iPhone, which was stranded on ATT. Dual CEOs really didn't have an impact on the luck RIM enjoyed during the growth of smartphones. Once a rule full featured Smartphone appeared on the other carriers, RIM's CEOs' weaknesses reared their ugly heads.
  • Seems like it's a done deal.

    If the Ford board wants to talk, something is up. I suspect the meeting will be more about transition and timing rather than a question. It also appears that talk about someone else (other than Elop) has gone quiet. If Elop was getting the job, there'd be more noise about it.
    • Not necessarily

      But decision time for Mullaly is rapidly approaching. If he really is the front runner, MS will need to make a decision on him in the next few days.
      John L. Ries
    • The Best Guy For MS

      Just happens to run Amazon
      Alan Smithie
      • Why would an entrepreneur leave the company he founded... work for someone else when his current company is highly profitable and he doesn't need the money?
        John L. Ries
        • Might be a great match

          M$ has profits that they don't know what to do with - Amazon has profits that Bezos "reinvests" so that Amazon never has "profits" ... Maybe that's the key ...
          Roger Ramjet
    • An opinion

      A Mullaly is practically an old man more keeps an eye of its ailments, doesn't like me, however Pat Gelsinger joins the experience of the soft (VMware) and of the hard (Intel) it is relatively young but in the madure age, I find interesting as new CEO MSFT.
      luis river
      • CEOs are often in their 60s

        They then serve for a few years and retire. But given his age, it doesn't really make much logical sense for him to leave Ford, except to retire, unless something bad is likely to happen in the very near future.
        John L. Ries
  • Lenny Kravitz says, "It ain't over 'til it's over." This goes for CEO pick

    Why don't we add Daniel Akerson of GM to the pile? After all, he did "streamline" and "transformed" GM to a more "focused" automobile company. These are some of the buzz words used in the "One Microsoft" concept. Bottom line, "it ain't over 'til the fat lady sings." I don't hear Two Tons of Fun singing, "It's raining CEOs."
  • Sorry, my bets are still on Elop

    Maybe Mulally would come over as some sort of division manager or VP or something, but Elop gave Nokia to Microsoft on a silver platter and then bailed with a $25 million golden parachute. The only reason you do that is if you're going to get to CEO Microsoft. I have significant suspicion that Elop's got enough incriminating e-mails in his inbox to get Microsoft in all kinds of hot water if he felt like it, either in the eyes of legislators, or shareholders, or both. Elop is an incumbent of Microsoft, I would imagine still has plenty of friends on the board of directors, and I don't see him settling for his current seven figure bank account when his competition is a CEO that had to get a loan from Uncle Sam to prevent his company from collapsing.

    • Mulally as Division Manager or VP?

      I think you are joking.
      Ram U
      • Not the point

        My point was that if Mulally is coming over, he's not coming over as CEO.

    • That's precisely why Elop's shouldn't get the job

      It would make is tenure at Nokia look way too much like collusion between him and MS. An Elop appointment would be a Nokia shareholder lawsuit waiting to happen and might even invite unwelcome antitrust scrutiny.
      John L. Ries
    • Misinformation

      Voyager529: Ford didn't get any Government money, only GM and Chrysler.
      • That's mostly because they had their financial crisis a couple of years

        earlier. When credit was easier to obtain. At one point they has pretty much everything up for collateral. Ford wasn't really doing much better, they just got lucky and has their problems earlier than GM or Chrysler.
        Sam Wagner