Global Investor

When it’s time to go

Maulik Tewari | Updated on November 22, 2014

Microsoft’s Ballmer quit after a 34-year career



Stepping down from Microsoft’s board, former CEO Steve Ballmer has finally quit the company that he joined 34 years back. Ballmer resigned as CEO early this year after holding the post for 14 years.

It was way back in 1980 when Ballmer was persuaded by Bill Gates to drop out of Stanford. He became Microsoft’s first business manager. In 2000, he took over as CEO from Gates.

All-time high

With a holding of 333.3 million shares, Ballmer is the biggest individual shareholder in Microsoft. With a net worth of $21.8 billion, he is ranked 30th on Forbes’ list of billionaires. Interestingly, he has become wealthier since his exit plan was announced in August 2013. Microsoft stock has gained 40 per cent since then, surging to $45/share, the highest in over 14 years.

The Ballmer overhang

It is not that Microsoft did poorly under Ballmer’s leadership. Profits grew from $9.4 billion in 2000 to $21.8 billion in 2013. But it has lost out to technology majors such as Apple and Google over the years. According to critics, it was Ballmer’s failure to keep pace with rapidly changing technology that saw Microsoft lose out to its rivals.

This happened as the computing world underwent a change − from being totally dependent on PCs to moving on to portable mobile devices; and from a situation where software was installed on computers to being made available in a cloud. With the desktop market where Microsoft commanded leadership shrinking over time, the company found itself lagging behind. While Microsoft figures out how to get back into the game, Ballmer has his plate full – he recently bought the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team for a whopping $2 billion.

Published on August 24, 2014

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