What's next for the Microsoft insiders who didn't get the CEO nod

What's next for the Microsoft insiders who didn't get the CEO nod

Summary: Satya Nadella wasn't the only Microsoft insider on the CEO shortlist. What's next for Tony Bates, Kevin Turner and Stephen Elop now that they didn't get top spot?


Now that it's official that Satya Nadella is Microsoft's next CEO, it's time to ponder what happens with some of the other leading company insiders who didn't get the nod.

As part of the search process, the Microsoft CEO search committee considered not only more than a few outsiders, but also a number of internal candidates as possible replacements for now ex-CEO Steve Ballmer. From conversations I've had with various contacts, I think the committee gave at least passing consideration to most of the members of Microsoft's senior leadership team.


That means all the inner-circle vice presidents -- Terry Myerson, the head of Microsoft's unified OS team; Julie Larson-Green, head of devices and studios; Qi Lu, head of applications and services; and Tony Bates, head of business development and evangelism -- were all "considered" to at least some degree for CEOship.

Microsoft Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner also was on the internal candidate list, as was Stephen Elop, the former CEO of Nokia who is poised to become the head of devices at Microsoft. (Elop is technically an outsider but more like an insider given he's about to rejoin Microsoft once Nokia's handset business is integrated into Microsoft following regulatory approval.) A couple of my sources believed Eric Rudder, Executive Vice President of Advanced Strategy also may have been actively considered for the top spot.

Of those on this list, Elop was mentioned during early days of the hunt by many as the most likely to become the next Microsoft CEO -- especially in the period just after Microsoft announced its plan to buy Nokia's devices and services business. Elop formerly headed up Microsoft's Office business before joining its biggest Windows Phone partner. Microsoft is in dire need of a better mobile strategy. Boom. The next CEO has got to be Elop, a number of company watchers (and at least one of my reporting colleagues) predicted.

But then a couple of things happened. First, details about Elop's controversial post-Nokia compensation plans (inextricably intertwined with reports about his in-process divorce) went public. Then there was a sources-said report that claimed Elop was in favor of selling off Bing and the Xbox. Given Microsoft management's insistence that Microsoft couldn't and shouldn't abandon its consumer properties, those claims about Elop's supposed plans were damning. For the past few months, Elop's name seldom bubbled to the top of any rumored CEO candidate lists.


Another "sources said" story seemed to help erode any chances that Turner might have had to become CEO. While many company watchers never really believed "KT" was a viable candidate, there was talk back when Ballmer brought him into the company in 2005 that he was being groomed by Ballmer as Ballmer's heir-apparent. But once a thinly sourced report claiming Turner was leading the internal candidate list but would only be keeping the seat warm for Elop, his name also seemed to disappear completely from any leaks about who was leading the internal CEO candidate list.

(Though a much-noticably slimmer and more dapper Turner was called out by name by Ballmer and Nadella during yesterday's CEO-installation festivities, he didn't look very happy in the couple of cutaways where we got a glimpse of him.)

As of today, Turner, Elop and Bates are all still Microsoft employees. But given the rumored interest all three are believed to have in becoming CEOs again at some point in their careers, it will be interesting to see how long they'll stick around in the new Nadella-led regime.

As things currently stand, it's business as usual. Elop is set to become head of Microsoft's expanded devices business, with Larson-Green and her troops reporting to him. Turner remains the COO, but not involved in centralized marketing (and only partially involved with OEMs), following last July's "One Microsoft" reorg. And Bates, the former CEO of Skype, remains head of business development and evangelism.

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


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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  • Elop

    Elop is a guy not afraid to take chances. The products he delivered had excellent quality. I doubt anyone could have done any better than him. For example; Samsung failed to get Windows Phone rolling, Elop (and Nokia) did better. Satya Nadella will make certain anything Elop does in the future makes money.
    Sean Foley
    • Value

      Elop took a company in Nokia and was in charge during a massive destruction of shareholder value. That's not exactly a track record you want in a CEO.
      • Elop took over a company that was already in dire trouble

        I'm not saying he performed miracles there, but I doubt anyone could have turned things around any better considered what they had to work with when he arrived.
        • If you're right...

          ...then he'll likely get another shot at being a CEO (or he'll start his own business), but probably not at MS.
          John L. Ries
    • The Flop

      will get rewarded, no fear. He did exactly what his M$ Masters wanted, ran Nokia down so far with Windows that M$ was able to buy it up. Don't you love it when a plan works?
      • That's the suspicion of a lot of people...

        ...myself included, and was probably a large part of why Elop didn't get the job (he was a shareholder lawsuit waiting to happen).
        John L. Ries
      • Hey, Timspublic1 -

        I hear Walmart is having a sale on tinfoil hats.

        From the sounds of your post, you may want to stock up on them...
        • If WalMart has a sale...

          ...maybe you can ask Kevin Turner (a.k.a. KT - The Butcher Of WalMart).
    • Sean Foley: " The products he [Elop] delivered had excellent quality"

      I must agree. The Nokia N9 was an outstanding headset that got rave reviews.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
      • So have other

        Lumia models that have a better OS.
    • Satya should can Elop

      Elop was a disaster at Nokia. He should never had picked Windows Phone over Android.

      Elop did nothing remarkable at Microsoft. Just sat on a cash cow making sure nobody screwed up too bad.
      • Android ...

        ... is a race to the bottom. The only OEM making money with Android is Samsung.

        Heck, even Google didn't have the balls to rock THAT boat and offloaded their Motorola devices division at a los that FAR exceeds Microsoft's 1st year Surface write-down, just to appease Samsung.
        • In Phones, yes

          But Android is at least making money for a few folks in tablets, including Google (they didn't offload the Nexus), Amazon, and Samsung (of course.)
          • Manufacturers not making money from Android

            @...Fencesitter I think your examples prove the point that manufacturers other than Samsung - and perhaps Asus and LG - are not making money from Android.
            Google doesn't manufacturer Nexus devices and they are essentially sold at break even (including indirect costs). Same can be said for Kindle Fires which is also a forked Android device anyway. Both Google, and partners Asus and LG, and Amazon are relying on subsidies to drive device profitability.
  • KT

    Kevin Turner: nice salesperson and as CEO, a great way to trim the Microsoft engineering ranks as they all turn in their blue badges and walk out. Very glad the board made the appropriate call.
    • Agree

      Turner as a CEO at MS is a joke. Never happen. Balmier must have been delusional if he thought he would ever be the next CEO.
  • I'm surprised Julie LG isn't looking around for opportunities

    She's been badly stung in all of this. ScottGu is now a "report to the CEO" VP, and she soon will not be.
    • Julie LG is long way short of the Gu Talent.

      Flim Flam comparison when compared to the real developer talent in Scott. Seriously apart from brown nosing Sinkorsky, and the ribbon, what does JLG really offer Microsoft. She really is flaky.
    • Should be fired with Elop

      You can't compare inventing the Ribbon in Office to any of the stuff Guthrie has done. Plus when you add in that she pretty much was leading teams associated with one of the crappiest OS releases in MS history and also stood by quietly while Sinofsky screwed the company into the next decade she should be shown the door immediately.
  • What's Next?

    Eiether they soldier on with a brave face or look for a new opportunity outside of MS. It's really that simple.