Bill Gates will serve on special panel to find successor
Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer will step down within the next year after leading the company since 2000.
Microsoft said Friday that Ballmer will stay on through the process of choosing a successor. Founder Bill Gates will be among those on a search committee to find the new CEO.
In a letter to staff, Ballmer, 57, said Microsoft has grown from a $7.5 million company when he joined in 1980 to one worth nearly $78 billion. It has grown from 30 employees to almost 100,000. Ballmer's wealth is estimated at $15 billion.
"I feel good about playing a role in that success and having committed 100 percent emotionally all the way," Ballmer wrote. "We have more than 1 billion users and earn a great profit for our shareholders. We have delivered more profit and cash return to shareholders than virtually any other company in history."
Ballmer said he originally planned to leave in the middle of the company's transformation into a devices and services company, but he realized the CEO should be available throughout the process.
"We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction,” he said.
The special committee to find a replacement is chaired by John Thompson, the board’s lead independent director, and includes chairman of the board Bill Gates, chairman of the audit committee Chuck Noski and chairman of the compensation committee Steve Luczo.
“As a member of the succession planning committee, I’ll work closely with the other members of the board to identify a great new CEO,” said Gates. “We’re fortunate to have Steve in his role until the new CEO assumes these duties.”
Ballmer was attending the Stanford Graduate School of Business when Gates, a Harvard classmate, persuaded him to drop out and join Microsoft. He became the company's 30th employee.
As CEO, he helped build new Microsoft businesses, including its Xbox division. He also began the company's transition into focusing on devices like the Xbox and the Surface tablet, and well as services like the search engine Bing.
Investors seemed to take the news in stride: As of 10:50 ET, Microsoft's share price was up 6.72 percent to $34.56.