Microsoft reportedly narrows CEO search to about five candidates


Stephen Elop, left, is scheduled to rejoin Microsoft early next year regardless of whether he's named its CEO.

Microsoft has reportedly narrowed its chief executive search to about five candidates, with two of those candidates being internal executives and another soon to be an internal executive.

According to a new Reuters report, Microsoft has cut its list of CEO candidates to include the following executives: Ford CEO Alan Mulally; former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, who will rejoin Microsoft when it acquires Nokia's devices unit; former Skype CEO Tony Bates, now a Microsoft executive who works the company's business partners; and Satya Nadella, leader of Microsoft's cloud computing division. More candidates may be in the running, though their identities aren't known.

Though many expected Microsoft to name outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer's successor before the end of the year, Microsoft's decision "could still take a few more months," according to report's sources. Reuters states its sources also indicated that Microsoft is looking at a wide range of potential candidates, including candidates in the "life sciences and consumer" sectors. 

Microsoft reportedly narrowed its list to 10 candidates last month, including two internal and eight external candidates. Bates and Nadella have been rumored to be the leading internal candidates for the position since August, when Ballmer announced his decision to retire from the company within a year.

Mulally is widely believed to be the overall leading candidate, with Ballmer reportedly even throwing his support behind Ford's chief executive. Elop has his own band of supporters, however, primarily because of his history at Microsoft, where he once led the Office team, as well as his tenure as leader of Nokia, giving him both software and devices backgrounds. Microsoft has shifted its emphasis in recent years from simply being a software company to one that developers both software and hardware.

Bates is perhaps the dark horse of the group, having experience running Skype to also managing Microsoft's business partners; he has also handled acquisitions for the company.

Source: Reuters | Image via Microsoft

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33 Comments

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I still don't understand why Ballmer has to go. I think he's done a great job. Microsoft are still making millions/billions of dollars a year aren't they?

He has to go cause putting Elop in place was all part of the trojan horse plan. Microsoft had to offer something good to Elop to do something shady like that.

LaP said,
He has to go cause putting Elop in place was all part of the trojan horse plan. Microsoft had to offer something good to Elop to do something shady like that.

I understand that these people are in another league bu Elop is already going to get $25 million from Nokia... I mean even at that level it is not pocket change....

If I get picked CEO, I promise to scrap the tablet aspiration completely, resurrect Windows Longhorn and bring back Clippy. Then I'll merge Microsoft with Apple and call it Microapple

Lone Wanderer Chicken said,
If I get picked CEO, I promise to scrap the tablet aspiration completely, resurrect Windows Longhorn and bring back Clippy. Then I'll merge Microsoft with Apple and call it Microapple
I'm down with that plan. How do I vote for you?

Lone Wanderer Chicken said,
If I get picked CEO, I promise to scrap the tablet aspiration completely, resurrect Windows Longhorn and bring back Clippy. Then I'll merge Microsoft with Apple and call it Microapple

Clippy pales in comparison to "Longhorn"! Focus your resources on "Longhorn" rather than Clippy.

(Replace Clippy in that text with Windows XP and this becomes a true story. Rather than focusing on "Longhorn", Microsoft focused on making Windows XP more secure . . .)

Edited by Ian W, Nov 6 2013, 4:17am :

Dot Matrix said,
Y'all are gonna freak when you see it's me they're gonna pick.
I wouldn't be surprised. You are truly an ambassador for the Microsoft brand. :-)

If it was up to me, I'd go with Mulally due to his history of busting up the turf walls at Ford. I didn't realize how bad the walls had gotten at Microsoft until I tried to fix an account problem. It was a problem with Office 365 Home apparently created by attaching a gamer tag so no department would take ownership of the problem. I finally got hold of really clued in woman in the Xbox division, and she told me all the stuff they weren't allowed to fix even though they knew how. If they want to provide cross platform solutions, those turf walls cannot stay.

Spicoli said,
If it was up to me, I'd go with Mulally due to his history of busting up the turf walls at Ford. I didn't realize how bad the walls had gotten at Microsoft until I tried to fix an account problem. It was a problem with Office 365 Home apparently created by attaching a gamer tag so no department would take ownership of the problem. I finally got hold of really clued in woman in the Xbox division, and she told me all the stuff they weren't allowed to fix even though they knew how. If they want to provide cross platform solutions, those turf walls cannot stay.

The dude is 100 years old...

I agree, a CEO does not need to be a computer scientist but rather an orchestra director that makes all the instruments, divisions in this case, play together harmoniously.

Normally, I would agree. However, in tech sector, I believe the CEO needs to have a vision of the future in technology and services. Does anyone recall John Scully when he was at the helm at Apple A supposedly experienced executive didn't know the vision of Apple. Not until Jobs came back did Apple have a clue of what to do next.

All indication is that Mulally is a very good CEO but I don't believe it's with Microsoft. I understand that he has engineering experience coming from Boeing but the software landscape changes much faster that Airplane/Car industry.

Just an armchair CEO....

I think it's far more important for a CEO to enable people with a vision for the tech sector than to establish the vision. A CEO of a corporation this size is really a politician governing a small country.

I agree, he is the best for the job. look at ford, their cars are absolutely gorgeous nowadays. he is a perfect and visionary leader and that's all Microsoft needs as a CEO. don't care how old is he. plus his hometown is in Seattle washington so he belongs there and so he has bond and emotion too.

trojan_market said,
I agree, he is the best for the job. look at ford, their cars are absolutely gorgeous nowadays. he is a perfect and visionary leader and that's all Microsoft needs as a CEO. don't care how old is he. plus his hometown is in Seattle washington so he belongs there and so he has bond and emotion too.

How do you know he's a "visionary leader"?

Spicoli said,
I think it's far more important for a CEO to enable people with a vision for the tech sector than to establish the vision. A CEO of a corporation this size is really a politician governing a small country.

I don't disagree that a CEO needs to have some skills as a politician, however, I believe it's far more important that a CEO understands the software/service landscape and establish the vision.

By all indication, Steve Ballmer was a very good President of Microsoft under Bill Gates. However, he did not set the technology vision of the company. I recall Ray Ozzie was the one that had the vision of cloud computing/services about 6 years ago after MS acquired Groove. Microsoft didn't truly jump on this vision until much later after Ray Ozzie left. Further, the remaining leaders of MS didn't truly embrace that vision and no one to champion it.

There are other example that I can't think off the top of my head at moment but it takes a strong visionary leader to understand and set direction. I'm not quite sure Mulally has an understanding of the software/devices/services landscape to set the direction. Not just catch up but to set the next vision beyond what Google, Apple, facebook, and others are doing today. He can attempt to enable others if he is a CEO but ultimately, the leader has to have a technical vision.

Nadella is the best as far as I'm concerned. He has the passion, drive and conviction that Bill had at the helm.

Elop: Lacks passion. Will allow company to rest on its laurels.
Mulally: Board's pick. Bye bye consumer division. Hello stock performance.
Bates: I'll agree with the author. Dark horse. [insert Dr. Evil maniacal laughter]

deadonthefloor said,
Nadella is the best as far as I'm concerned. He has the passion, drive and conviction that Bill had at the helm.

Elop: Lacks passion. Will allow company to rest on its laurels.
Mulally: Board's pick. Bye bye consumer division. Hello stock performance.
Bates: I'll agree with the author. Dark horse. [insert Dr. Evil maniacal laughter]


I'm surprised more investors aren't pushing for him, since it seems they all want Microsoft to focus on enterprise customers and services like Azure.

I like Azure and Cloud services at microsoft, I think its one of the most successful sections recently, but Alan Mulally (if he accepts the job and leave ford) could be the best option