One thing's for sure: we'll certainly miss keynote dances and chants of, "Developers! Developers! Developers!" when Steve Ballmer steps down from his job as the head of Microsoft some time within the next 12 months -- no matter who the John Thompson-chaired succession committee picks to fill his shoes. There aren't a ton of details regarding the decision at the moment -- though a press release issued by the company (which you can find in all of PR speak glory below) is certainly positioning the move as voluntary on Ballmer's part, stating that the exec, "has decided to retire."
No direct replacement has been lined up, and as such, he'll remain on-board as CEO until the committee finds the right person. Along with Thompson, Bill Gates, Chuck Noski and Steve Luczo will also take part in the search. Gates had some nice things to say about his successor and old pal, "We're fortunate to have Steve in his role until the new CEO assumes these duties." For his part, Ballmer continues to sound bullish when it comes to the company's future, "there is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time. We have embarked on a new strategy with a new organization and we have an amazing Senior Leadership Team. My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our company's transformation to a devices and services company. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction."
Update: Well, ask and ye shall receive. Just like that, Microsoft has revealed Ballmer's "internal email" to the staff. We've included that below, just under the aforementioned press release. The opening of the letter is comprised of the same quote Microsoft issued in this morning's release, as well as, interestingly, a link to press release itself. Ballmer goes on to praise current senior leadership and adds that the company has managed to balloon from "$7.5 million to nearly $78 billion," since the 30 staff member days when he first joined up. The note doesn't shed much more additional light on any future plans, though the executive does add that he will "[continue] as one of Microsoft's largest owners." The exit, he explains is "emotional" and "difficult." No doubt there will be much dancing and shouting in the months to come.
Update 2: The Seattle Times scored interviews with Ballmer and Thompson, revealing a couple of tidbits. First, Thompson notes that the CEO will, indeed, have some input on choosing his successor. In fully reflective mode, Ballmer (not shockingly, perhaps) admits that Vista was his biggest disappointment during his tenure. He also added that he plans to stay in Seattle post-retirement, so that tropical island paradise will have to wait. Also, as plenty have noted before us, the Wall Street reaction to news has been been initially fairly positive, so read into that what you will.
One thing's for sure, whoever does take Ballmer's place has a tough road ahead of them, as desktop market share continues to erode and Microsoft struggles to gain footing in the mobile space, even after the launch of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. No word on what the big man plans to do post-Microsoft, but here's hoping he gets a little rest and relaxation in the meantime. And heck, he can always follow in Gates' footsteps and use his time off to save the world.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to retire within 12 months
Microsoft Corp. today announced that Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer has decided to retire as CEO within the next 12 months, upon the completion of a process to choose his successor. In the meantime, Ballmer will continue as CEO and will lead Microsoft through the next steps of its transformation to a devices and services company that empowers people for the activities they value most.
"There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time," Ballmer said. "We have embarked on a new strategy with a new organization and we have an amazing Senior Leadership Team. My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our company's transformation to a devices and services company. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction."
The Board of Directors has appointed a special committee to direct the process. This committee 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. The special committee is working with Heidrick & Struggles International Inc., a leading executive recruiting firm, and will consider both external and internal candidates.
"The board is committed to the effective transformation of Microsoft to a successful devices and services company," Thompson said. "As this work continues, we are focused on selecting a new CEO to work with the company's senior leadership team to chart the company's course and execute on it in a highly competitive industry."
I am writing to let you know that I will retire as CEO of Microsoft within the next 12 months, after a successor is chosen. There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time. My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our transformation to a devices and services company focused on empowering customers in the activities they value most. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction. You can read the press release on Microsoft News Center.
This is a time of important transformation for Microsoft. Our new Senior Leadership team is amazing. The strategy we have generated is first class. Our new organization, which is centered on functions and engineering areas, is right for the opportunities and challenges ahead.
Microsoft is an amazing place. I love this company. I love the way we helped invent and popularize computing and the PC. I love the bigness and boldness of our bets. I love our people and their talent and our willingness to accept and embrace their range of capabilities, including their quirks. I love the way we embrace and work with other companies to change the world and succeed together. I love the breadth and diversity of our customers, from consumer to enterprise, across industries, countries, and people of all backgrounds and age groups.
I am proud of what we have achieved. We have grown from $7.5 million to nearly $78 billion since I joined Microsoft, and we have grown from employing just over 30 people to almost 100,000. I feel good about playing a role in that success and having committed 100 percent emotionally all the way. 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.
I am excited by our mission of empowering the world and believe in our future success. I cherish my Microsoft ownership, and look forward to continuing as one of Microsoft's largest owners.
This is an emotional and difficult thing for me to do. I take this step in the best interests of the company I love; it is the thing outside of my family and closest friends that matters to me most.
Microsoft has all its best days ahead. Know you are part of the best team in the industry and have the right technology assets. We cannot and will not miss a beat in these transitions. I am focused and driving hard and know I can count on all of you to do the same. Let's do ourselves proud.