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Report names several new Microsoft CEO candidates that seem unlikely

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will retire within a year, he recently announced.

Variety, a entertainment industry trade publication, published a report Tuesday naming what it claims are several new candidates for Microsoft's chief executive position, though they all seem extremely unlikely to be chosen for the position.

According to Variety's article, John Thompson, the Microsoft board member leading the CEO search, could "very well" end up picking himself to replace Steve Ballmer when he retires from the position within the next year. Thompson previously served as the CEO of Symantec and is currently the CEO of Virtual Instruments. Prior to those two positions, Thompson spent about 25 years at IBM.

In a recent interview, Thompson said he wouldn't be a "pawn" to former Microsoft CEO and current Chairman Bill Gates, though he was complimentary of the company's founder. Despite his accolades, however, few board members leading CEO searches name themselves to the positions they're seeking candidates for. Additionally, Microsoft's top spot will have several well-known names that would likely be supported by investors and other board members.

Other candidates Variety's report names include NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke, Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam, General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt, Juniper Networks CEO Kevin Johnson and former Microsoft executive Steven Sinofsky. Johnson is a former Microsoft executive who led the company's Windows division prior to leaving for Juniper, a position Sinofsky overtook about a year later. Sinofsky's unceremonious exit from Microsoft shortly after Windows 8's release would likely send mixed signals to employees and investors if he were chosen as chief executive, especially given the company's recent reorganization.

Under Sinofsky's tenure, fighting between Microsoft's divisions was reportedly rampant, with several current and former Microsoft executives allegedly calling his leadership controversial. The Windows division collaborated less with other Microsoft departments under Sinofsky's tenure, the executives said.

The other alleged candidates in Variety's report all at least have some technology backgrounds as well, though most don't have experience with many of Microsoft's key businesses, such as operating systems development, enterprise services and online services. Burke's technology experience primarily relates to on-demand offerings for his television networks, though he has little experience with almost any of the areas Microsoft does business.

Variety's article also mentions several candidates already reportedly at the top of Microsoft's list for a potential chief executive, including current Ford CEO Alan Mulally and former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, who will be rejoining Microsoft when its deal for Nokia's smartphone business completes, pending approval, early next year. Mulally and Elop have been widely reported to be front-runners for the position, though Microsoft's search is reportedly still in its early stages.

According to the report, Gates is "highly unlikely" to return as Microsoft's CEO, though it also seemingly contradicts itself by claiming he "is said to be considering the idea of putting his hat in the ring" – a reaction from the chairman that hasn't been corroborated by reputable technology outlets.

Notably absent from Variety's report is Microsoft executive Tony Bates, who leads the company's Skype subsidiary. Bates is one of Microsoft's top executives, responsible for a large portion of the company's business interactions, including working with the company's OEM and strategic partners.

Source: Variety | Image via Microsoft

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