Report: Mulally considered Microsoft CEO gig before Ballmer's announcement

Earlier this week, Ford CEO Alan Mulally ended months of speculation and confirmed he is taking himself out of the running to be Microsoft's next chief executive. However, a new report claims Mulally was actually interested in taking on the Microsoft CEO gig before Steve Ballmer announced his retirement in August.

Citing unidentified sources, The Wall Street Journal reports that, in late 2012, Mulally told an acquaintance that the only two companies he would be interested in joining once he retired from Ford were Microsoft and Google. Mulally and Ford have said he will stay with the company at least through the end of the year.

Mulally never confirmed nor denied that Microsoft was considering him for its CEO. However, today's report claims that Mulally decided to pull out of the process for a few reasons. One was that he thought Microsoft was leaking information about the search process; another was that he was concerned about Ballmer and chairman Bill Gates remaining on Microsoft's board of directors.

Gates has already said he plans to spend "considerable time" with whomever is picked to be Microsoft's new CEO, and a recent report this week claims that Gates will be "much more involved in the company going forward." That could be a concern for any CEO candidate, who might be afraid that any decision they make will be scrutinized by Gates and Ballmer. At the same time, however, the implication that Mulally wouldn't want to work with Ballmer is interesting since the two are known to be longtime friends. In a November interview with The Wall Street Journal, Ballmer explained how he sought Mulally's advice about how to strengthen Microsoft's brand and general management tactics.

A final decision from the Microsoft CEO search committee is supposed to happen sometime in early 2014, although no announcement is expected in January, in part because Gates is working on the annual letter for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Source: Wall Street Journal | Image via Ford

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Mr. Hand said,
Let's see how much longer they milk this story. Personally I think he's going to go right from Ford to a big retirement house in Florida.

most likely

Experience most likely. Better to go with someone who had time to prove that they are capable. Plus, baby boomers tend to more focus-oriented and loyal/faithful than Gen X'ers.

neonspark said,
OMG enough with this guy. He's more overrated than his cars and he's out so it is time to move on.

Yeah he's so overrated. Not like he was a big part of the team that designed the 777 and it's flight deck. Not like the 777 is one of the world's best and best selling commercial planes ever made. Not like it was the first plane from Boeing that was entirely computer designed.

No nothing of that at all, this guy is just a cars salesman

neonspark said,
OMG enough with this guy. He's more overrated than his cars and he's out so it is time to move on.

No more than Gates and Ballmer are.

I'm definitely glad gates will stay on to consult the next ceo.
I just hope they find the right someone to take on this huge, huge job.

Does anyone else find it interesting that the source claimed the only two companies he'd leave for are Microsoft and Google, despite not having a technology background?

I just don't get it. Is it to stroke his ego, being at the helm of a massive company in a thriving industry? To show the world you can do it? It doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

Anthony Tosie said,
Does anyone else find it interesting that the source claimed the only two companies he'd leave for are Microsoft and Google, despite not having a technology background?

I just don't get it. Is it to stroke his ego, being at the helm of a massive company in a thriving industry? To show the world you can do it? It doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

Why not? It's called ambition, as a CEO you want to be involved in an exciting project as much as any other job.

XerXis said,

Why not? It's called ambition, as a CEO you want to be involved in an exciting project as much as any other job.


It's one thing to have ambition, but the executive landscape is littered with successful CEOs who went to unfamiliar industries and failed spectacularly. It's extremely interesting that the ONLY two companies he'd leave for are in an industry he isn't in.

Anthony Tosie said,
Does anyone else find it interesting that the source claimed the only two companies he'd leave for are Microsoft and Google, despite not having a technology background?

Not having a technology background?
"Mulally graduated from the University of Kansas, also his mother's alma mater,with Bachelor of Science (1968) and Master of Science (1969) degrees in aeronautical and astronautical engineering. He received a Master's degree in Management (S.M.) as a Sloan Fellow from the MIT Sloan School of Management in 1982.

Does anyone else find it interesting that the source claimed the only two companies he'd leave for are Microsoft and Google, despite not having a technology background?

He was CEO of Boeing commercial aircraft, helped design the 777, helped design all the technology that made it into the integrated flight deck that it has, helped push fully computer designed planes.

Definitely no technology background there.

The context of my statement was clearly referring to the industry background, and my first response was even more clear about that. Glad you're both capable of reading Wikipedia, however

Anthony Tosie said,
The context of my statement was clearly referring to the industry background, and my first response was even more clear about that. Glad you're both capable of reading Wikipedia, however

Your welcome; hope you are able to read and understand the meaning of what is stated about him as well. Plenty of people in MS high echelon have degrees in Mathematic and or Science, Ballmer in primis.

Fritzly said,

Your welcome; hope you are able to read and understand the meaning of what is stated about him as well. Plenty of people in MS high echelon have degrees in Mathematic and or Science, Ballmer in primis.


You're still missing the point of what I was saying. I wasn't saying he isn't intelligent, nor was I dismissing his work prior to becoming a CEO. I was saying the tech industry isn't the automotive or aeronautics industry -- there are drastically different structures and tasks.

It's odd that a CEO -- especially at his age -- would want to jump to an all-new industry (and ONLY that all-new industry), where the business structure is completely different. He's not an engineer anymore.

Anthony Tosie said,

You're still missing the point of what I was saying. I wasn't saying he isn't intelligent, nor was I dismissing his work prior to becoming a CEO. I was saying the tech industry isn't the automotive or aeronautics industry -- there are drastically different structures and tasks.

It's odd that a CEO -- especially at his age -- would want to jump to an all-new industry (and ONLY that all-new industry), where the business structure is completely different. He's not an engineer anymore.


Um he designed the flight deck of the 777 which is pretty much all computers. The amount of tech in that cockpit is ridiculous.

He successfully ran Boeing and helped to design their most successful plane. He successfully ran Ford, turned them around and took them from bankruptcy to profitability. Ford was the ONLY car company in the US to not take any governmental money after the financial crash. The aeronautics industry is completely different to the car industry but yet he was able to do that.

The only thing of any relevance in your post is his age, and yes he is old.

-Razorfold said,

Um he designed the flight deck of the 777 which is pretty much all computers. The amount of tech in that cockpit is ridiculous.

He successfully ran Boeing and helped to design their most successful plane. He successfully ran Ford, turned them around and took them from bankruptcy to profitability. Ford was the ONLY car company in the US to not take any governmental money after the financial crash. The aeronautics industry is completely different to the car industry but yet he was able to do that.

The only thing of any relevance in your post is his age, and yes he is old.


You basically disregarded absolutely everything I just wrote and proceeded to argue what I just said I wasn't arguing. I don't even know how to respond to that.

You said the tech industry is nothing like the other industry. I just told you that he worked at Boeing and helped design a flight deck which is choke full of technology. I don't think you truly understand how many computers and how advanced some of the computers in airplanes are and he was part of that, hell he is why cockpits are what they are today.

Then I told you that the aeronautics industry is nothing like the car industry and yet he managed to successfully run both of those and make profits for both those companies. What makes you think he can't do it for Microsoft?

There are tons of CEOs who work in companies that have nothing to do with companies they worked with in the past and a lot of them are successful at it too. So why do you think Mulally wouldn't be a good fit? His age? That's your only argument? Well then fine, he is old (and I agreed with you on that).

Again, you just disregarded everything I just said.

He is running a company. He is not an engineer. My posts have all been referring to the differences in leading Microsoft versus Ford or Boeing. I am not referring to his technology know-how or whether he's a capable engineer. Let me repeat: He is no longer an engineer.

This is not about his intelligence or what he did as an engineer. This is about the differences between running a technology company such as Microsoft or Google versus running a company such as Ford or Boeing. There are a variety of differences in channel structure (think supply chain), the types of products and services, the related markets, the type of integration, etc.

If you think the age was the main point I was making -- something I mentioned in passing -- then you're clearly not paying attention.

Honestly, I don't know how much more clear I can make it for you, so I'm just going to stop responding.

Why don't you read what I said?

Then I told you that the aeronautics industry is nothing like the car industry and yet he managed to successfully run both of those and make profits for both those companies. What makes you think he can't do it for Microsoft?

Oh wait I've said that twice now.

There are tons of CEOs who work in companies that have nothing to do with companies they worked with in the past and a lot of them are successful at it too. So why do you think Mulally wouldn't be a good fit?

Oh wait I made that point twice too.

Yes there have been failures, but they've also been plenty of successes. Mulally has already proved that he can go from being an engineer to running one of the worlds largest defense and aerospace companies. Two completely different tasks and he did both of them well. He then proved that he can go from a defense/aerospace company to a car manufacturer. And he did that well too because Ford went from being pretty much broke to not needing any government assistance.

Anthony Tosie said,

You're still missing the point of what I was saying. I wasn't saying he isn't intelligent, nor was I dismissing his work prior to becoming a CEO. I was saying the tech industry isn't the automotive or aeronautics industry -- there are drastically different structures and tasks.

It's odd that a CEO -- especially at his age -- would want to jump to an all-new industry (and ONLY that all-new industry), where the business structure is completely different. He's not an engineer anymore.


A good manager can manage anything. He's likely bored and would want a change. But a Manager surrounds themselves with good people so they don't need to know everything.

bidz said,
I have so heard and seen enough of this guy now, I hope he never gets a new position - anywhere!

Doubtful. Seeing how he is a living textbook example of how to succesfully chance the internal structure and culture of an organization.

On the one hand this is what Microsoft needs. Internally they are a mess. Mulally could really have trimmed down and strengthened the management hierarchy at Microsoft. But at the same time his background in engineering doesnt make him an ideal candidate.

Ronnet said,

Doubtful. Seeing how he is a living textbook example of how to succesfully chance the internal structure and culture of an organization.

On the one hand this is what Microsoft needs. Internally they are a mess. Mulally could really have trimmed down and strengthened the management hierarchy at Microsoft. But at the same time his background in engineering doesnt make him an ideal candidate.

doubtful, seeing as how old he is the most he will likely hold from now on is board positions and public speaking. maybe teaching at some private university. MSFT lacks tech vision not another reporting structure shuffle. With Ballmer's stack ranking gone, that alone puts them on equal footing with everybody else. Not to cut the guy's talent short but if he knew the tech industry his cars would be more than just big engines on cheap shells. Ford cars are as tech stripped as they get

neonspark said,

doubtful, seeing as how old he is the most he will likely hold from now on is board positions and public speaking. maybe teaching at some private university. MSFT lacks tech vision not another reporting structure shuffle. With Ballmer's stack ranking gone, that alone puts them on equal footing with everybody else. Not to cut the guy's talent short but if he knew the tech industry his cars would be more than just big engines on cheap shells. Ford cars are as tech stripped as they get

A boad position and teaching are still 'new positions' so how is that doubtful?

And the second part of your post is something I mentioned as well. Albeit with different words.

neonspark said,

doubtful, seeing as how old he is the most he will likely hold from now on is board positions and public speaking. maybe teaching at some private university. MSFT lacks tech vision not another reporting structure shuffle. With Ballmer's stack ranking gone, that alone puts them on equal footing with everybody else. Not to cut the guy's talent short but if he knew the tech industry his cars would be more than just big engines on cheap shells. Ford cars are as tech stripped as they get


Do you even know anything about him except that he's CEO of Ford?

1. He used to work for Boeing and was directly responsible for the 777 and completely integrated flight decks. That plane has a ton of technology in it, and used to make it.

2. He turned Ford around. You claim Ford cars are tech stripped, have you even seen the newer cars like the Fusion? Also Ford owns Lincoln, most of their tech and luxury goes into Lincoln just like how Toyota owns Lexus.

neonspark said,

MSFT lacks tech vision

Wow buddy you are telling me MS lacks tech vision? really? the same people that brought you the tablet PC although not at it's prime. The same who brought the idea of a design language that now Google is using. You gotta be kidding me if you think they Lack Tech Vision. DOn't get me started with all the research being done by MS Research.

nickcruz said,

Wow buddy you are telling me MS lacks tech vision? really? the same people that brought you the tablet PC although not at it's prime. The same who brought the idea of a design language that now Google is using. You gotta be kidding me if you think they Lack Tech Vision. DOn't get me started with all the research being done by MS Research.

The same company that missed the shift of PCs to being internet connected by 3-5 years, the same company that missed the transition to mobile? The same company that IGNORED user complaints about Windows 8 until FAR too late? The same company that is ****ing off their own partners by making their own hardware? The same company that is ignoring the reasons for their success (in making software only forgoing LOW MARGIN hardware) and pushing on in becoming a "Devices and Services" company?

Yeah, they lack vision. But that is not why they will fail. The reason they will fail is that they built up a huge bureaucracy that limits their ability to respond in a timely manner to the marketplace. They built a company with dozens of little fiefdoms and managers who rule like lords over their terrified subjects. Workers at the company have no stake in the company's success other than the wages they earn...and often, that doesn't include benefits, as they bent the recent lawsuit against temp workers to mean that they FIRE all temp workers after 9 months, just to rehire them 3 months later, to avoid the legal requirement to provide those benefits. Or they are Indian workers here in H1B visas, earning HALF what American workers in the same position would command.

So, they lack innovation, vision, a structure that would allow them to succeed, workers who care about the company, AND they lack leadership. The company is doomed, people. Wake up and look at what is going on in the industry and it is BLATANTLY obvious that Microsoft's "time in the sun" is fading into a bleak night.

You clearly don't know Microsoft. Your description of their internal structures is what Bill Gates was able to avoid. You're describing the average company, not Microsoft. Employees at Microsoft actually have more stake in the company then their wages. It was part of Microsoft's succes. Go read up on it.

They are also sitting on enough cash to afford a failure or two or a hundred for that matter. They indeed missed on a couple of innovations. They were indeed slow to response. But they missed out on device innovations and their reliance on OEMs also slows their lead time. Making their own devices and connecting with the end-customer (not OEMs) is actually a smart way to get back. Windows (Phone) 8 is also a brave attempt. They dared to give Windows a new face. Naturally this is cause for resistence but at the same time I would never have gotten a Windows-based tablet and Phone without the new UI.

We'll have to wait and see who is right. Luckily time will tell. But I do think its clear that Microsoft has a fighting chance and its not all dark.

Ronnet said,
You clearly don't know Microsoft. Your description of their internal structures is what Bill Gates was able to avoid. You're describing the average company, not Microsoft. Employees at Microsoft actually have more stake in the company then their wages. It was part of Microsoft's succes. Go read up on it.

They are also sitting on enough cash to afford a failure or two or a hundred for that matter. They indeed missed on a couple of innovations. They were indeed slow to response. But they missed out on device innovations and their reliance on OEMs also slows their lead time. Making their own devices and connecting with the end-customer (not OEMs) is actually a smart way to get back. Windows (Phone) 8 is also a brave attempt. They dared to give Windows a new face. Naturally this is cause for resistence but at the same time I would never have gotten a Windows-based tablet and Phone without the new UI.

We'll have to wait and see who is right. Luckily time will tell. But I do think its clear that Microsoft has a fighting chance and its not all dark.


Agreed, but he does have a very good point here:
The reason they will fail is that they built up a huge bureaucracy that limits their ability to respond in a timely manner to the marketplace. They built a company with dozens of little fiefdoms and managers who rule like lords over their terrified subjects.

Though the reorg hopefully helped with this. It appeared to be the intention...