In late August, faced with the worst sales drop on PC history triggered in part due to the much maligned (or perhaps misunderstood?) Windows 8, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer yielded to critics, agreeing to step down "within a year". Now it appears that Microsoft's employees and partners may not have to wait that long to find out the face of that leadership change.
According to a report by Bloomberg, which cites unnamed sources close to Microsoft's board, the selection committee -- which includes top shareholder, company cofounder, former CEO, and embattled current chairman Bill Gates -- is moving aggressively to screen candidates and complete the selection process by the end of 2013.
Mr. Gates is reportedly tapping Charles Giancarlo, a managing director at Silver Lake -- a private-equity firm (the less liquid sibling of the hedge fund) -- to help with selection process. Mr. Gates has close ties to Silver Lake, as one of their former top investors. Mr. Giancarlo was a former chief executive at Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO), helping to steer its growth.
This will only be Microsoft third CEO; the previous two were Steve Ballmer and the original founder and CEO Bill Gates.
Candidates for the CEO spot reportedly include:
- Alan Mulally
- Stephen Elop
- Tony Bates
Bloomberg's sources indicated that Microsoft's selection panel only wants to reach a conclusive decision by the year's end. It may still take longer for the new CEO to arrive, depending on whom they pick.
If Microsoft picks Mr. Donahoe or Mr. Mulally, it will have to work with their current employer to negotiate when the pick will leave their current company. A Ford spokesman commented, "Alan continues to focus on executing the One Ford plan, and we don’t engage in speculation."
Microsoft refused to comment on the Bloomberg report.
Whoever does become CEO of Microsoft has their work cut out for them. They must continue the executive leadership team revamp, they must restore the reputation of Windows with 8.1 and future upgrades; they must drive the Xbox One to beat a tough competitor, the Sony PlayStation 4; they must guide Microsoft Office's transition to being a cloud service; they must find a way to turn around the struggling Surface and Windows on ARM efforts; and they must find a way to integrate the recently acquired Nokia device division.