Ballmer departure may have been more sudden than Microsoft let on

Microsoft CEO Ballmer speaks at Software 2000 conference

Microsoft CEO Ballmer speaks at Software 2000 conference

Steve Ballmer’s retirement may have been more sudden and a lot less smooth than Microsoft suggested when it made the announcement on Friday.

According to AllThingsD, Ballmer had not intended to leave Microsoft so soon after unrolling the restructuring of the company he had spent serious time and effort planning.

A number of sources told the tech news site that the timeline for Ballmer’s departure had been bumped up dramatically, first by him and then by the nine-member board in charge of finding his successor after all agreed that it would be best if he left sooner rather than later.

Indeed, Ballmer had previously said that he would only retire once the last of his children left high school. As AllThingD’s Ina Fried notes, that would have seen him hang his boots up around 2017.

It seems however that a number of issues on the immediate horizon, including a proxy fight, continuing business declines and general perception around Ballmer’s leadership, saw his retirement accelerated.

Indeed, Ballmer alludes to the fact that he had not intended to leave so early in the retirement letter he sent to Microsoft staff following the announcement:

“My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our transformation to a devices and services company focused on empowering customers in the activities they value most.”

Compounding the sense that Ballmer’s decision to depart had been a long time coming was Gates’ statement on the matter, which was devoid of any sense of celebration around Ballmer’s legacy:

“As a member of the succession planning committee, I’ll work closely with the other members of the board to identify a great new CEO,” said Gates. “We’re fortunate to have Steve in his role until the new CEO assumes these duties.”

It should be noted however that this is likely not an indication of any acrimony between the two but rather a preventative measure put in place to keep Ballmer from becoming a lame duck for the remainder of his tenure. Nonetheless, Gates has always been a key supporter of Ballmer’s and the fact that all parties agreed that it was time for him to go suggests that the company’s top brass are in uniform agreement about the need for change.

Markets meanwhile reacted positively to the announcement, with Microsoft stock jumping more than seven percent in its wake.



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