Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) Chief Executive Steve Ballmer has always had his critics. His hard-nosed style of management offended some, as did his colorful personality. But criticism of the CEO, who replaced Bill Gates in 2000 for the position, has been mounting of late as the company has struggled in certain sectors -- like smartphones and tablets -- and made questionable decisions, as well -- like purchasing video messaging service Skype at nearly twice its market valuation.
At a financial summit -- the Ira Sohn Investment Research Conference -- in New York on Wednesday, David Einhorn, an influential hedge fund star and manager of a fund at Greenlight Capital, delivered harsh words for Microsoft's boisterous chief.
He commented, "[G]ive someone else a chance. His [Ballmer's] continued presence is the biggest overhang on Microsoft's stock."
Mr. Einhorn has vested interest in the company's success. He recently executed a large purchase of the company's stock. His firm now owns 9 million shares, or about 0.11 percent of the company's total shares.
While some properties like the Xbox console and the Windows 7 operating system have been well received and sold great, investors have largely focused on the company's misses. CNN Money last year carried a scathing editorial in which it suggested that Microsoft was "dying".
With stock worth under 10 times the company's earnings, Microsoft shares are considered undervalued. But not everyone is purchasing due to the cloud of doubts hanging over the company.
Last year Microsoft was notably passed in market cap by a familiar old foe -- Apple, Inc. (AAPL). While many jeered at this news, Apple has since somewhat silenced critics by passing Microsoft on quarterly profits. On Tuesday further concerns were raised when lumbering old giant International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) passed Microsoft in market cap for the first time in decades.
After years on top of the tech industry in stock, revenue, and profits, Microsoft is finding itself fading from the race. Does that require a major leadership shift? Some argue that it does.