Microsoft: Planning for Ballmer's departure began three to four years ago

If the announcement today that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will be retiring in the next 12 months caught many people outside the company by surprise, it apparently was not much of a shock for some inside Microsoft. Today, ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley said she spoke with both Ballmer and Microsoft reps today and the company told her that the CEO succession plans actually began three to four year ago.

Foley made those comments in a special report on Twit.tv today, and added that Microsoft reps said that the company's special committee has already started interviewing candidates for the CEO role, both from within and from outside Microsoft. In other words, this company is already quite active in selecting who will lead Microsoft after Ballmer leaves.

Foley said that her impression of Ballmer in speaking with him today was one of sadness coming from the CEO. Ballmer told her that he came to work today and someone told him, "Congratulations" on the news of his retirement. He said that while that is the standard thing that people say when they learn someone is retiring, he did really think of it that way. Hopefully we will learn more from that interview in the near future.

Source: Twit.tv | Image via Microsoft

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Phouchg said,
With some luck, I'm planning to retire about... 50 years from now.
It sucks that most of us have to work until we have one foot in the grave and one foot out. Ballmer doesn't have too. The best thing to do is leave when you are on top. What we have seen with other corps is people leaving when they are about to fold. Like RIM!

Even tho Ballmer was the face of the company, I am sure Gates was still running it.
Vista was fine. The problem was time it took to release and poor OEM support.

The other products are all great including Surface. Surface isn't a failure, its just slow on adoption. RT was a bad idea, but I think if they stick with it, it will pan up.

What keeps most CEOs working is the power, not the money.

So, if Ballmer is quitting is :
a) healthy problems.
b) he was forced to do that.

There were people talking about Ballmer retiring sometime a year or so after windows 8 launch since 2011. Gates didn't retire for either of those reasons. If you were to look at corporate America you could also find plenty of other examples also I'm sure.

Max Norris said,
Or C, has been with the company for over 30 years and actually wants to retire.

Again, no!.
You, me, and most of the member of Neowin, we are normal people. In our case, to own a lot of money means less work and more "enjoy the life". For the regular CEO, it is all about power.
It is not so strange to find a CEO that, even when they are rich (not all CEOs are rich), they usually do overtime, including saturdays and sundays, they aren't enjoying the life, they rarely take a break of a vacation, it is all about the business and show the power to other people.

Brony said,
Again, no!.

And again, speculation and generalization. You can't pin a lifestyle decision on every single person who shares a job title.

blackjezuz said,
There were people talking about Ballmer retiring sometime a year or so after windows 8 launch since 2011. Gates didn't retire for either of those reasons. If you were to look at corporate America you could also find plenty of other examples also I'm sure.

My bet is that he was forced, in the same fashion that Sinofsky renounced "voluntary".

First, many shareholders asked several times for a restructuring of the board members, however, it never existed the consensus to do that, specially since Ballmer and Gates owns a lot of votes. But, exists an exception : bad management. So, it is possible to put down some CEO even when he is a major shareholder if exists some proof that he acted against the will of the shareholders, in this case,the Surface scandal.

And no, MS is not in his finest our. MS is selling more, specially thanks to Windows and Office(and other new products), however MS is losing the portable market and it could cost the future of MS.

Max Norris said,

And again, speculation and generalization. You can't pin a lifestyle decision on every single person who shares a job title.

Yes, we are speculating. However, you can calculate the chances that what happened. In this case, it is **very unlikely** that Ballmer decided voluntary and without any cause, to quit.

Losing portable market? They are gaining at a good growth, in some countries reaching the 10-20% levels... That in just a few years... years after smart phones became the defacto standard...... Not bad
Surface isn't made to compete iPad for market dominance.
Bing is growing, Office is still as strong as ever, Windows still dominates laptops, desktops and enterprises. Xbox took a hold of the console market.

Microsoft isn't doing bad, they are doing better then before, having massive revenue's.

So erm, why is a forced resignation the best bet again?

Brony said,

Yes, we are speculating. However, you can calculate the chances that what happened. In this case, it is **very unlikely** that Ballmer decided voluntary and without any cause, to quit.


Speculation and educated guesses, even with the word "calculate" attached to them, are still guesses.

Brony said,

Yes, we are speculating. However, you can calculate the chances that what happened. In this case, it is **very unlikely** that Ballmer decided voluntary and without any cause, to quit.


This whole thought process is a waste of time. People who want to believe he was forced to quit can never be proven wrong because they've told themselves denial is proof. I think I actually read a comment from someone like "That's exactly what someone forced to quit would say!"

You people are why reality TV exists.

Brony said,

Yes, we are speculating. However, you can calculate the chances that what happened. In this case, it is **very unlikely** that Ballmer decided voluntary and without any cause, to quit.

So, one cannot work 30+ years with a company and decide it's time? Maybe the guy has something going on elsewhere that requires his attention?

Max Norris said,
Or C, has been with the company for over 30 years and actually wants to retire.

No, I don't really think so. In that case, they'd have a transition plan with a named CEO to suceed him rather than cause uncertainty for their shareholders for potentially several months. Yes, their stock surged, but that might deflate if this is left in the air for too long. Further, Ballmer himself is not sure where to move next, and says he hasn't had much time to think about it, implying it wasn't a decision that "grew" and matured within himself.

Also, Ballmer said in 2008 that he expected to lead the company until about 2018 ("for another nine to 10 years" -- this makes it half that time). 2008 is coincidentally shortly _before_ this retirement plan went into effect according to this article, so he may not have been aware of it back then. Source: http://www.informationweek.com...lmer-to-step-down/208402027

I think that is the most clear sign he was forced to retire.

Edited by Northgrove, Aug 23 2013, 10:32pm :

Northgrove said,
No, I don't really think so. In that case, they'd have a transition plan with a named CEO to suceed him rather than cause uncertainty for their shareholders for potentially several months.

You mean the part where they started working on that transition plan a few years ago?

Joshie said,

This whole thought process is a waste of time. People who want to believe he was forced to quit can never be proven wrong because they've told themselves denial is proof. I think I actually read a comment from someone like "That's exactly what someone forced to quit would say!"

You people are why reality TV exists.


Could not the same be said about the opposite? Reality is that, most probably, any of us has enough money to seat in the room where the things are decided; well surely I do not....

Fritzly said,

Could not the same be said about the opposite?

Not really. One is paranoia, the other is not. When someone believes everything someone says is a lie to cover up that reality is the opposite, I mean, that's downright clinical.

While Ballmer gets a lot of hate for his mistakes, he was also responsible for a lot of successes at MS.

Windows 7, Office 2007/10/365, Windows Phone, Xbox, Surface, Azure

When he took over MS, they were only known for Office, Windows (both consumer and enterprise). Now they're a strong contender in gaming, mobile (yes windows phone may not be the number 1 OS but it's doing better than it was), and then their enterprise offerings have expanded too with Office 365 and Azure.

Sure Ballmer was never a visionary like Gates was, but Gates was also a very ruthless businessman. Ballmer on the other hand (for lack of a better word) has "softened" MS and made them a more likable company.

Would be nice if you read my entire comment.

Now they're a strong contender in gaming, mobile (yes windows phone may not be the number 1 OS but it's doing better than it was)

Let's see, third place in the world. Second place in a couple of countries around the world. Phones and an OS that, for the most part, are constantly getting high praise.

Yes their marketshare isn't massive, but they're constantly posting growth after growth.

You don't have to be number 1 to be considered a success.

---

And surface? For a company that has never made a consumer PC / tablet before, they made one that's pretty dam good. And then you have pixelsense (formally known as surface) which had some great technology in it.

Microsoft didn't make the surface to be some sort of bestselling product, they made it as a sort of technological showcase to show OEMs how to do their jobs.

-Razorfold said,
Sure Ballmer was never a visionary like Gates was, but Gates was also a very ruthless businessman. Ballmer on the other hand (for lack of a better word) has "softened" MS and made them a more likable company.
I miss the days of the evil Micro$oft empire which every move was part of a master plan to take over the universe. Now it's all "Poor Microsoft look how hard they're trying".

Wasn't most of Windows 7 already out the door when Gates decided to leave? meaning Ballmer's only claim in the OS devision is this useless POS they call Windows 8?

Xbox 360 can certainly not be credited to him, especially considering we haven't seen the new one launch yet.

Surface is a complete failure, with even talk that MS lied to shareholders about it's success.

And most of those Office products were nothing to to do with him either.
2007 and 2010 were nothing to write home about, they were part of a regular upgrade, and I can assure you, all he did was rubber stamp the ribbon, he hasn't got the brain to think that up for himself.

I'll give him the others based on the fact that I don't know enough about them to comment.

IMO, Ballmer has his heart in the right spot, and loves the company. But it comes across that people who threatened his position were let go, and moved on. Yet he really hasn't done a lot for the board to keep endorsing him. I wouldn't be surprised if the board gave his a nudge on this to save face.

Nashy said,
Wasn't most of Windows 7 already out the door when Gates decided to leave? meaning Ballmer's only claim in the OS devision is this useless POS they call Windows 8?

Xbox 360 can certainly not be credited to him, especially considering we haven't seen the new one launch yet.

Surface is a complete failure, with even talk that MS lied to shareholders about it's success.

And most of those Office products were nothing to to do with him either.
2007 and 2010 were nothing to write home about, they were part of a regular upgrade, and I can assure you, all he did was rubber stamp the ribbon, he hasn't got the brain to think that up for himself.

I'll give him the others based on the fact that I don't know enough about them to comment.

IMO, Ballmer has his heart in the right spot, and loves the company. But it comes across that people who threatened his position were let go, and moved on. Yet he really hasn't done a lot for the board to keep endorsing him. I wouldn't be surprised if the board gave his a nudge on this to save face.


Gates was long gone by the time Win7 came out. In fact I'd even say that by the time Vista was released he was no longer there.

[quote=Nashy said,]Wasn't most of Windows 7 already out the door when Gates decided to leave? meaning Ballmer's only claim in the OS devision is this useless POS they call Windows 8?[/quote]
Gates stopped being the CEO in 2000.

[qupte]Xbox 360 can certainly not be credited to him, especially considering we haven't seen the new one launch yet.

Surface is a complete failure, with even talk that MS lied to shareholders about it's success.

And most of those Office products were nothing to to do with him either.
2007 and 2010 were nothing to write home about, they were part of a regular upgrade, and I can assure you, all he did was rubber stamp the ribbon, he hasn't got the brain to think that up for himself.[/quote]

So he gets all the blame when something fails but he isn't responsible for when something does well?

And surface was never created to be some bestselling major hit. It was designed to be a technical showcase for Microsoft to show OEMs what can be done if they bothered to put some effort into it. And from a technical standpoint it did pretty dam good.

MS profit from 2000-2013:

[img]http://www.wolframalpha.com/sh...SGIZTCGMYWENBTMM3Qaaaa[/img]

MS revenue from 2000-2013:

[img]http://www.wolframalpha.com/sh...SGKMBVGM2GMNBUGUYAaaaa[/img]

It's pretty much been a giant upward trend since Ballmer took over.

2xSilverKnight said,
Windows phone and Surface are successes ?

no, but Windows Phone's design and philosophy (putting people first and facebook integration) has definitely been a quiet game changer in the industry.

Surface's emphasis on tablets being more than consumption devices, being able to connect to USB and so on, are also making their impact. Surface's biggest impact is probably on Windows itself, some of my friends were really amazed to see Windows run on a nice device like that for the first time.