Ballmer sells 12% of his stake in MSFT, is he preparing to leave?

Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer has sold 49.3 million shares or 12% of his own shares, in Microsoft stocks in the past three days, worth about $1.3 billion. Steve Ballmer is Microsoft's top corporate executive in the company, and he has just shed a part of his stake in the company, and plans on selling more by the end of the year.

According to Reuters, Steve Ballmer plans on selling up to 75 million shares by the end of the year, which could possibly mean Steve Ballmer has lost faith in Microsoft and could be planning to leave the company.

However, Steve Ballmer denies any speculation that he might be leaving the company in a quote from the companies website, "I am excited about our new products and the potential for our technology to change people's lives, and I remain fully committed to Microsoft and its success."

After Friday's massive sale, Steve Ballmer still holds approximately 359 million shares in the company, or about 4.2%. Ballmer's stocks are currently worth $9.6 billion dollars, at $26.85 a stock. This is the first time Ballmer has sold any stocks in Microsoft in the past seven years, and is already planning on selling more stocks, up to 75 million stocks, or a total of 18% of his total stocks, by the end of the year.

Executives of public companies can not sell their stocks before or after quarterly earning announcements, and all of their sales must be publicly disclosed. Ballmer still claims that this move is purely a financial move, and as reported by typepad, Steve will save $100 million on taxes this year.

If Steve Ballmer does step down as CEO in the near future, it would be a huge blow to the company. On the positive side, we could possibly see Steven Sinofsky become Microsoft's next CEO.

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i don't think he's leaving the mothership. he's probably using the money to buy a more luxurious escape pod.

I think he just needed the extra spending case, before the holiday season.
Did you see his wifes xmas list this year.
His kids were no exception.
Ballmer needs a $100Mill to just start the blue light special lay - away.

Who really gives a care why, he can its his money.

Microsoft needs a new CEO that will breathe a fresh breath of air into the company. I actually think Ballmer was doing an OK job, but the guy just seems thick to me. A new CEO will probably raise employee morale as well.

after 10 years being CEO, he should leave.

He is preparing to sell at this price, because if he is going to leave, the stock will drop on the news. of course only in case this is true.

he is old now, so he probably needs the money diversified elsewhere.

Argh, these are some idiotic comments! What kind of logic is this? If you've paid any attention to Ballmer recently you'd never think he'd lost faith... look at all the new stuff! Kinect, WP7, Azure, what they're planning for Windows 8... It's a very silly time to think he's preparing for stock prices falling.

The guy probably just wants some cash so he can go buy an island or something. Is that so wrong?

satus said,
What if Steve Jobs buy all these stocks? He will become Microsoft's CEO??

12% isn't enough! It would be cool though, but not good for the market.

Some of you take off the GEEK hat and put on your financial hat. It is very possible as some stated that its purely a tax move. 100 Million dollars is nothing to cough at. Many CEO's sells stocks just because REUTERS said something does not mean it is the main reason. It is all speculation at the moment. He still holds at least 80% of his stocks after the sale of the 75 Million shares. He doesn't need the money and tax savings of 100 million is large enough for someone to make smart moves like that.

If he does step down he is not stepping down on a bad note. In fact its probably the best way to leave a company if he were to leave. Record sales, WP7 has received great reviews, Kinect also the same, and Office 2010 is going gangbusters along with WIN 7. There are many positives at the moment so he does leave it will be a great feather in his cap not a thorn in MS's side.

mrmomoman said,
Some of you take off the GEEK hat and put on your financial hat. It is very possible as some stated that its purely a tax move. 100 Million dollars is nothing to cough at. Many CEO's sells stocks just because REUTERS said something does not mean it is the main reason. It is all speculation at the moment. He still holds at least 80% of his stocks after the sale of the 75 Million shares. He doesn't need the money and tax savings of 100 million is large enough for someone to make smart moves like that.

Smart if you think that the the value of your holding will remain flat............. as it has happened for the last ten years. Also Ballmer is not someone like Gates that sells shares quite regularly and when the CEO of a company suddenly sells 12% of his holding the markets take note.

Everyone is harping on Steve Balmer being a bad CEO but if you look at MS, I think it is doing better than it was during the last 5 years of Bill Gates' tenure. Did everyone think Bill Gates was a great CEO? When asked many questions in interviews, he seemed to not know much about a lot of his products, mainly the Xbox.

Ballmer has made mistakes, but to be fair, he seems to be correcting them with Windows 7, Kinect, WP7, etc. If he saves 100 million in taxes, heck, I would sell too. However, as an IT guy myself I think a company like Microsft needs an IT guy as CEO, I miss Bill Gates, and I would love Steven Sinofsky to be their CEO. Steve Ballmer could remain as CFO and keep helping MS get great numbers.

Every other news outlet is reporting the taxes thing, and ONLY neowin reporting this?
And I thought microsoft had a great year. And I think most people will agree that ballmer has steered the boat into the right direction. Windows 7, office 2007/2010/2011, windows phone 7, kinect... none of those suggest 'windows vista' to me.

speedstr3789 said,
methinks Andrew Lyle likes spreading FUD around

Yeah very unlikely that Ballmer will bail out. The tax savings alone is worth it. MS shares don't rise/fall as rapidly as many other companies as far as I'm aware but it is very stable. If anything he can buy back shares later on I'm sure.

He is not leaving. It is all about taxes as the financial year is nearly comming to a close. I think people are reading too much into this.

Microsoft really needs a new CEO - they're really slacking off, they used to be 'masters' in different areas. No longer.

Or perhaps he needs money

Regardless of Ballmer's reputation, good or bad, I'd really like to see Steven Sinofsky take over. He's smart, coherent, mindful of the projects he works within, and isn't prone to rage-fuelled bouts of screaming. We need a geek back at the head of MS. Steven would fit perfectly.

It's depressing how much money that man makes. He's going to save $100,000,000 just in taxes, so how much is he actually pocketing each year?

Relax people, Steve just needs some extra cash...And if he leaves, I'm sure he'll retire. He won't switch MS for a competitor being the dedicated exec that he's been all these decades.

I'm always surprised to see how many people want Ballmer out. Maybe he doesn't have the most inspired vision, but he's done far from a bad job. The very fact that Microsoft Research is allowed to exist in its non product-driven form is a testament to the fact that he cares about Microsoft for the long term. There's no guarantee that a replacement wouldn't be just another quarterly earnings junkie who would spend five years cutting the fat and collecting the bonuses before sailing off into the sunset and leaving a company totally unable to compete in their wake.

random_n said,
I'm always surprised to see how many people want Ballmer out. Maybe he doesn't have the most inspired vision, but he's done far from a bad job.

If he is just a unlucky CEO, after too many products failures Microsoft need a lucky CEO.

I know this is kind of an irrelevant question but anyone knows who is Steve Ballmer's wife? I just look up his wikipedia page and the web but seems can't find any.

He and apple are going to team up and buy facebook, ea, japan or a albino midget. It's obvious if you've been reading the news lately.

This has absolutely nothing to do with concern about the soon to expire Bush tax cuts. Absolutely nothing. Executives have absolutely no reason to protect their financial interests. No reason whatsoever. God you guys are idiots. Steve Balmer is one of the best examples of a great business manager. Bill Gates tried to run Microsoft into the ground several times. Steve Balmer is the primary reason why Microsoft is as successful as it is today. While it is entirely possible he may be preparing to retire, it is far more likely that he is just trying to cash out on his stock options before the tax cuts expire. Look around, many executives will be doing this if they have not already done so.

"could possibly mean Steve Ballmer has lost faith in Microsoft"
"If Steve Ballmer does step down as CEO in the near future, it would be a huge blow to the company"

I think a lot of people (especially shareholders) would feel that you have these statements backwards and that Microsoft could use some new leadership to shake things up. Their current product line is pretty strong, but it's taken them a long time to get here and they're left playing catchup in hot areas like smartphones and tablets (which is funny considering how long Windows Mobile and Tablet PC have been around). Between the release of Windows XP and Windows 7, Apple has grown from a < $10B market cap company to one that's nearing $300B now. Microsoft has missed a lot of opportunities.

sexypeperodri said,
He's bailing ship, Microsoft is a dying brand.

MS is at the top of their game right now, windows 7 is rocking, and WP7 will probably be a hit.

sexypeperodri said,
He's bailing ship, Microsoft is a dying brand.

Lol wut?

Windows 7 - Most popular OS of all time
Office 2010 - Most popular Office of all time
Windows Phone 7 - Looking to be a success and has a good amount of developers
Xbox 360 - One of the most popular consoles of all time
Kinect - Looking to be a major success with some 5 million expected to be sold by Christmas
Windows live - Used by over 350 million people worldwide

And that's not even considering the enterprise and things like Windows server.

Yup those are all indications of a dying brand...

/- Razorfold said,

Lol wut?

Windows 7 - Most popular OS of all time
Office 2010 - Most popular Office of all time
Windows Phone 7 - Looking to be a success and has a good amount of developers
Xbox 360 - One of the most popular consoles of all time
Kinect - Looking to be a major success with some 5 million expected to be sold by Christmas
Windows live - Used by over 350 million people worldwide

And that's not even considering the enterprise and things like Windows server.

Yup those are all indications of a dying brand...

Windows 7 is not the most popular OS of all time. I'm sure XP had more shares at the height of its power, and less competitors. Office 2010 isn't the most popular either!

Windows Phone 7 is going to fall, like the rest of the Windows phones - Xbox 360 has its RROD issues.

Kinect is hard to see, but I doubt its success - I cannot talk about Windows Live, as I don't know what's happening on that front.

Tpiom said,

Windows 7 is not the most popular OS of all time. I'm sure XP had more shares at the height of its power, and less competitors. Office 2010 isn't the most popular either!

Windows Phone 7 is going to fall, like the rest of the Windows phones - Xbox 360 has its RROD issues.

Kinect is hard to see, but I doubt its success - I cannot talk about Windows Live, as I don't know what's happening on that front.

Yep, if you completely ignore all the facts, you are correct.

Tpiom said,

Windows 7 is not the most popular OS of all time. I'm sure XP had more shares at the height of its power, and less competitors. Office 2010 isn't the most popular either!

Windows Phone 7 is going to fall, like the rest of the Windows phones - Xbox 360 has its RROD issues.

Kinect is hard to see, but I doubt its success - I cannot talk about Windows Live, as I don't know what's happening on that front.


Clueless guy is clueless.

Tpiom said,
Windows 7 is not the most popular OS of all time. I'm sure XP had more shares at the height of its power, and less competitors. Office 2010 isn't the most popular either!
The adoption rate of Windows 7 and Office 2010 is more than any previous version.

Windows Phone 7 is going to fall, like the rest of the Windows phones - Xbox 360 has its RROD issues.
Wow you can see into the future! Having more than 12,000 devs with early access (ie thats not counting the rest of the devs that got to sign up a few days ago) and devices out of stock are obviously signs of a failing product.

Xbox 360 is the second most popular current generation console, behind the Wii. And yeh it had its RROD issues a few years ago and MS increased the warranty on any first generation console by 3 years.

Kinect is hard to see, but I doubt its success - I cannot talk about Windows Live, as I don't know what's happening on that front.
Many stores are already sold out of Kinect just from pre-orders. But yeh thats also signs of a failing product.

/- Razorfold said,

Xbox 360 - One of the most popular consoles of all time

Really? With 44mio sold, what about Wii (70), PS2 (120), PSX (102), Gameboy (118), ...

Also Windows 7 most popular OS? People upgraded because there wasn't a decent OS from Microsoft since 2001 (XP). With 400mio XP sold comparing to 240mio Windows7 licenses (and growing, of course) how can Windows7 be most popular?

Edited by theh0g, Nov 7 2010, 1:16pm :

/- Razorfold said,

Lol wut?

Windows 7 - Most popular OS of all time
Office 2010 - Most popular Office of all time
Windows Phone 7 - Looking to be a success and has a good amount of developers
Xbox 360 - One of the most popular consoles of all time
Kinect - Looking to be a major success with some 5 million expected to be sold by Christmas
Windows live - Used by over 350 million people worldwide

And that's not even considering the enterprise and things like Windows server.

Yup those are all indications of a dying brand...

Windows 7 is far from the most popular OS of all time, that title still belongs to XP, Office 2010s sales have been much slower than expected and Windows Live has been losing money year after year.

/- Razorfold said,
Many stores are already sold out of Kinect just from pre-orders. But yeh thats also signs of a failing product.

Selling out doesn't mean a thing, I doubt it will be a failure though.

thealexweb said,

Windows 7 is far from the most popular OS of all time, that title still belongs to XP, Office 2010s sales have been much slower than expected and Windows Live has been losing money year after year.

And Windows 7's adoption rate is much much faster than XP's ever was. Office 2010 there was an article a while back saying its adoption rate was great (unless I was mistaken). And so what if Windows Live is losing money? They don't sell anything apart from ads. They still have over 350 million users, can you think of another similar product that has more? No.

Selling out doesn't mean a thing, I doubt it will be a failure though.
It doesn't? Oh going to pull the trick saying Microsoft is intentionally shipping lower products...considering they revised their estimated Kinect sales, I would assume it's a pretty dam popular product.

/- Razorfold said,
It doesn't? Oh going to pull the trick saying Microsoft is intentionally shipping lower products...considering they revised their estimated Kinect sales, I would assume it's a pretty dam popular product.

Most new products sell out, especially accessories with large existing user base. There is not a single analytic in the world that'd announce Kinetic as a big success at this point, it's too early.

sexypeperodri said,
He's bailing ship, Microsoft is a dying brand.

ha ha ha ha Great comment! Love it! Like rats leaving a sinking ship!!

theh0g said,

Most new products sell out, especially accessories with large existing user base. There is not a single analytic in the world that'd announce Kinetic as a big success at this point, it's too early.

Yes it is early, but don't discount the demand numbers.

Microsoft was originally trying to hit the 1 million mark by the end of the year, but because of pre-order demand alone, they revised production and sales estimates to 5 million by the end of the year. A 5x increase in expected sales on a hardware device that costs more than 1/2 what the console it is built for isn't a bad sign at all.

(Right now it is hard to find them in local stores, and is even forcing people to buy the XBox+Kinect bundles.)

I find this whole sub-thread a bit insane, especially since it is only focusing on the Microsoft Products basic consumers see, and doesn't even mention the massive deployments of servers and server products. Microsoft isn't just Windows7, nor are they just Office 2010.

I also find it a bit insane when they hold over 90% of the computing industry, and in the last year with Win7 and Server 2008 R2, their marketshare has once again INCREASED. There are literally Billions upon Billions of computers and systems and even freaking cars running Microsoft Operating Systems, and people see this is as failing because Apple is the darlings of Wall Street. (headsmack)

Put this in perspective, there are more computers running Vista and Windows7, than ALL of the Macs EVER sold since 1984. (And this isn't even considering the massive XP numbers that still hold the majority of the market.)

he is selling his msft stock so he can fund the purchase of mass amounts of adobe stock for a buyout........rumor i heard last month

Like stated above, executives of companies do this all the time for financial planning reasons. That this is being taken out of context is just silly

There is a difference between a financial plan to retire and someone losing faith in a company.

"...selling up to 75 million shares by the end of the year, which could possibly mean Steve Ballmer has lost faith in Microsoft and could be planning to leave the company..."

Using this insane logic, it would also mean that when Gates sold a bunch of his stock and stepped down as CEO that he 'lost faith' in Microsoft as well. (See how insane it sounds when applied here?)

Ballmer may very well be getting ready to leave, and that would actually be great for Microsoft, as he has been quite a thorn and problem for the developers and more creative teams at Microsoft. (Ballmer was alway more profit minded, where Gates was more technology minded; Microsoft could use someone like Gates again.)

But seriously, 'lost faith', that is about the freaking craziest thing I have read in a while. You should do a follow up article on how Bill Gates lost faith in Microsoft and only uses Apple products, cause that wouldn't sound any crazier... Geesh

PS
Additionally, has anyone NOT been following the state tax measures in Washington State, in the USA? It probably has more to do with what Ballmer is doing, as he personally was fighting against the tax increases and it efforts failed on Nov 2nd.

EDIT: I'm slow, sorry.

Ballmer sold 8.3% in 2003 (not 2008 as my OP indicated, apologies). Everyone claimed the same thing then and it obviously wasn't true. It's part in parcel with managing multi-billion dollar finances with upcoming tax reforms.

Ballmer & Gates both selling stock ! Pelosi staying...Boehner comes to US Congress with tax policy gridlock forever. Might be the only smart thing I have seen Ballmer do in ten years!

Microsoft has been on a decline ever since Steve Ballmer took over from Bill Gates. Hope the new CEO will propel Microsoft back to its good old days. No more MS Vista dudes.

KzR said,
Microsoft has been on a decline ever since Steve Ballmer took over from Bill Gates. Hope the new CEO will propel Microsoft back to its good old days. No more MS Vista dudes.

Wait on the down ? When gates was in charge there was hardly any competition. Now they have diverged, still hold a lot of the market in PC OS, have windows 7 and windows 7 phones + xbox 360 never mind office etc.

Gaffney said,

Wait on the down ? When gates was in charge there was hardly any competition. Now they have diverged, still hold a lot of the market in PC OS, have windows 7 and windows 7 phones + xbox 360 never mind office etc.

LOL at hardly any competition. I realize the antitrust hearings painted an interesting picture of the 90s, but most of the accusations in those things were blown way out of proportion (there was no tying violation, for example, as anyone who takes two minutes to actually read the Sherman Act would see). The Gates era wasn't absent of competition, it was just when Microsoft won the contest (competing is about winning, not about maintaining a permanent draw, no matter what the EU would have you believe).

Or rather, it was when Microsoft's competitors lost. You can look at every single 'other' company back then and run out of paper listing the horrible moves they made (just look at everything Apple did horribly wrong over the 90s, not to mention Opera's stubborn refusal to modernize, and Netscape's bizarre desire to create an OS).

People like to pretend that Microsoft destroyed IBM's chances on the PC by burying OS/2, and there remains to this day a culture that looks back on OS/2 Warp as the OS that could have been, by the good guys who finished last--despite the fact that IBM spent the 80s as THE BAD GUY, and was even specifically the target of the 1984 Macintosh launch campaign. But let's just forget all of that.

The only sketchy stuff that came out of the Gates era was MS's rebates for OEMs who exclusively supported Windows. Everything else is nonsense. The browser war was practically moot for most of the 90s, even though enthusiasts envisioned it as somehow greater than it was (the vast majority of web users in the US weren't being forced to use a bundled OS browser--they were using whatever came attached with their AOL/CIM/Prodigy set-up).

Iono, I just get irritated when people act like Gates was some sort of evil overlord of a dark period in software history. It isn't true. It just so happened that for 15 years, everybody else was farking up royally while Microsoft made just enough right moves to come out on top. Even the rebates scam was probably unnecessary, since Windows was already the preferred OS for 3rd party support, and users would likely demand it. Even with the prevalance of web content, and web-focused hardware like netbooks, people demanded Windows over Linux.

Gaffney said,

Wait on the down ? When gates was in charge there was hardly any competition. Now they have diverged, still hold a lot of the market in PC OS, have windows 7 and windows 7 phones + xbox 360 never mind office etc.

Although you are correct that Microsoft is once again pulling back strong with the products that you mentioned, but it was about the time that Gates stepped down as CEO and went to CSA that Microsoft started to hit some issues, and when Gates left completely, these issues skyrocketed in the company.

Gates' direction of the company and products were more about the technology than a pure profit motive, which is what Ballmer tended to lean towards. It wasn't until Vista and some major dissent inside Microsoft did Ballmer bend for things like Win7 and WP7 and other directions to have been able to happen. (Take one thing like versions, XP started to fragment with TabletPC, Media Edition, etc, and this is one reason the initial direction for Vista was to include all this technology in one simple version. However, with Ballmer's approval, this was completely lost, with sales and marketing chopping up Vista into 10 versions that had nothing to do with technology, but were arbitrary lines from a 'business' person's perspective.)

Ballmer is probably a really nice guy and probablly really means well, but inside Microsoft you have a lot of people that tend to have more of Gates' out look on technology rather than pure profit motives, which often doesn't work well with technology and product timing. Ballmer let a lot of weird things happen because of this difference of being a technology person and being a business person.

dream cloud said,
Maybe he justed wanted 1.3 billion dollars at hand in case stock dropped (though I don't see why it would)...
Wonder how big his wallet would have to be to fit $1.3B in it? Reminds me of that Simpson's episode with Mr. Burns trying to fold over his wallet when it was bursting with cash. Wish I had that problem!

Or he's just preparing to buy a new (VERY BIG!) house or something...

Or invest in a new venture...

Or he's catching up on stock sales he hasn't done in SEVEN years...

Or he'd like to show up on the list of top billionaires once before he dies...

Honestly people.

"I am excited about our new products and the potential for our technology to change people's lives, and I remain fully committed to Microsoft and its success."
"is he preparing to leave?"

wutdafuk

yxz said,
"I am excited about our new products and the potential for our technology to change people's lives, and I remain fully committed to Microsoft and its success."
"is he preparing to leave?"

Also, Ballmer wouldn't actually come out and say he is thinking about leaving if he was.
wutdafuk


It's usually a move by CEO's when they are preparing to step down, more of a financial backing plan.

yxz said,
"I am excited about our new products and the potential for our technology to change people's lives, and I remain fully committed to Microsoft and its success."
"is he preparing to leave?"

wutdafuk

If he really believed in the company he wouldn't be selling his stock as obviously the stronger Microsoft is the more his stock will be worth. Him selling now shows that he doesn't really believe the stock price is going to go up and increase his stocks value so his selling it now. This isn't confidence this is hedging your bets.

Vice said,

If he really believed in the company he wouldn't be selling his stock as obviously the stronger Microsoft is the more his stock will be worth. Him selling now shows that he doesn't really believe the stock price is going to go up and increase his stocks value so his selling it now. This isn't confidence this is hedging your bets.

you don't know what the hell you're talking about. the guy has almost half a billion stocks in the company and he's only selling 75 million. so because he's CEO he shouldn't sell 1 stock ever, right? get real man. this move saves the guy $100 million dollars, that's a lot of money anyway you look at it. you just need to get real that's all you need to do. it's not hard either, it's quite simple.

ctrl_alt_delete said,

you don't know what the hell you're talking about. the guy has almost half a billion stocks in the company and he's only selling 75 million. so because he's CEO he shouldn't sell 1 stock ever, right? get real man. this move saves the guy $100 million dollars, that's a lot of money anyway you look at it. you just need to get real that's all you need to do. it's not hard either, it's quite simple.

He is the face of a large corporation. Everything he does affects the company, like it or not. Subsequently, what may or may not seem like a logical move to you, actually in reality is not... And will be perceived as otherwise by most of the world i.e a lack of faith. It's not hard either, it's quite simple.

ctrl_alt_delete said,

you don't know what the hell you're talking about. the guy has almost half a billion stocks in the company and he's only selling 75 million. so because he's CEO he shouldn't sell 1 stock ever, right? get real man. this move saves the guy $100 million dollars, that's a lot of money anyway you look at it. you just need to get real that's all you need to do. it's not hard either, it's quite simple.

lol no.

astroX said,
so if Ballmer decides to leaves, it will be because he lost faith in Microsoft???

I know right? Its hillarious!