A post on Sunday over at Re/Code, the new Walt Mossberg/Kara Swisher venture after their departure from The Wall Street Journal, let fly a number of new rumors about Microsoft’s CEO search. According to Swisher, major investors and other Wall Street sources are insisting that “the board had made its choice and would soon reveal it”, and the only question is the timing of the announcement, which “would more likely be toward the end of this month at the earliest”.
The post goes on to drop a couple more bombshells: that, according to “people familiar with the situation”, current CEO and board member Steve Ballmer is expected to step down from his board seat when a new CEO is named, and that Bill Gates, who has been spending more time at Microsoft recently, appears to be set to retake a more active role in the company.
While it seems a bit of a stretch to assume that since Gates has been spending time on the CEO search that he would re-assume a larger role back at Microsoft, especially after a transition has been completed, it does seem almost inevitable that the founder, chairman of the board and first CEO of the company would be more active now and until a new CEO is firmly in place. What happens after that may well hinge on who becomes CEO.
Swisher also hints that changes at Microsoft may not be over yet, either:
Thus, it’s long past time for him to move along and end this slo-mo exit that many investors and employees have found excruciating. And, despite owning about four percent of the company, people familiar with the situation also expect Ballmer to step down as a director when the new CEO is named.
(Out too, it goes without saying, will be those closest to him — but more on that when the time comes.)
If Ballmer is out not only as CEO but as board member and with activist investor ValueAct coming on along with a replacement for Ballmer, this could be more of a house cleaning than we’ve been led to believe. Now with Swisher’s hints that any lingering traces of Ballmer may be swept away, too, will his One Microsoft policy, or even the Devices and Services strategy be in jeopardy? Could this be a hint that a new CEO could indeed be an outsider? Insiders like Satya Nadella, Kevin Turner, or even Stephen Elop might be more inclined to carry out Ballmer’s wishes, but will an outsider be as ready to follow the path laid out by Ballmer, especially if he’s gone and the board has substantially changed?
Hopefully, we should know soon enough. What do you think, is Ballmer being swept away? Who will the new CEO be, and will they adhere to the One Microsoft and Devices and Services path?