Microsoft Creates CEO Shortlist

by Matt Klassen on November 7, 2013

Microsoft has created a shortlist of candidates to replace CEO Steve Ballmer, according to an exclusive report from Reuters. While rumour has it that as many as forty names initially populated the list, its said the company has now narrowed its focus to about five people, including Ford Motor Co. boss Alan Mulally, former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop along with a few internal candidates like former Skype CEO Tony Bates, currently head of Microsoft’s business development, and Satya Nadella, the company’s cloud and enterprise boss.

While the names of the other 35 or so candidates that initially found themselves on Microsoft’s list remain unknown, Reuters’ source did reveal that Microsoft interviewed executives across a wide range of sectors, including those from the consumer and life sciences fields.

One thing is clear though, while Microsoft looks for a strong hand on the tiller its obvious investors want a so-called “turnaround expert”, one who can breathe some new life into Microsoft–a company some say is in desperate need of a radical leadership change–and help the company regain its market dominance.

If there was a turnaround expert in the names that Reuters reported, it would certainly be Alan Mulally, who is largely credited with implementing an entire culture change at Ford that helped the company reverse its flagging fortunes and avoid a federal bailout back in 2009. As Reuters notes, it remains unclear about Mulally’s plans to leave Ford, as he’s said time and again he intends to stay with the automotive giant until the end of his contract in 2014, but there are some who say he remains open to other opportunities should they arise.

Elop, many may remember, ran Microsoft’s business software division before leaving to head Nokia in 2010. Despite the fact he ostensibly drove Nokia further into the ground, he remains a strong candidate because of his ties with Microsoft, which again will be strengthened when he joins the company following the closure of the $7 billion acquisition deal to purchase Nokia’s mobile division.

As mentioned, there are two known internal candidates as well for Ballmer’s CEO job. One, Tony Bates, came to Microsoft with the acquisition of Skype two years ago, and was recently promoted to head of the company’s “business development and overall strategy,” while second option, Satya Nadella is reportedly coming to the forefront “as the company struggles to catch up in online and mobile computing.”

Several other names have been bandied about the past several months as well that weren’t included on Reuters’ shortlist, including Computer Sciences CEO Mike Lawrie, former Windows Chief Steven Sinofsky, and former Juniper Networks CEO Kevin Johnson.

It’ll be interesting to see who Microsoft ultimately finds worthy of the top position, as the choice of person will serve as clear evidence of the company’s own perspective on its situation: Choose an innovator, the company obviously wants to turn things around, choose a steady cautious hand, clearly the company wants to stay the course.

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