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Microsoft Investors Want a "Turnaround" Expert for New CEO

By - Source: Reuters | B 15 comments

There's talk that a special Microsoft committee is eying Ford Motor Company CEO Alan Mulally and Computer Sciences Corp CEO Mike Lawrie.

With current Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer gearing up to take an early "retirement" within the next twelve months, twenty of Microsoft's top investors are now seeking a "turnaround expert" to fill his shoes. Included in this shortlist of potential candidates are Ford Motor Company CEO Alan Mulally and Computer Sciences Corp CEO Mike Lawrie.

A special committee of the board was formed after Ballmer's public announcement last month. Sources told Reuters that it's currently in charge of conducting the search, and its advisers have held regular meetings with company shareholders. In one of these meetings, Microsoft supposedly had a list of around 40 candidates, and has been narrowing it down ever since.

Sources claim that this special committee could name the new CEO as soon as the end of the year. They also say that Microsoft's investors are highly attracted to Mulally and Lawrie because both have had success in turning around companies. The 68-year-old Ford CEO is more widely known thanks to his "dramatic reversal" of the #2 North American car manufacturer.

Last November Ford announced a succession plan for Mulally that revealed the current CEO would stay on at least until the end of 2014. However, sources close to the plan told Reuters that the executive could possibly step down before that if the right opportunity came along. Naturally, a follow-up with Ford denies such a possibility, stating that he will "continue to serve as Ford's president and CEO through at least 2014."

Reuters believes choosing Malally would be a "radical choice" for Microsoft given he resides outside the technology sector. But perhaps this is the radical move Microsoft needs to make as it transitions into a devices and services company. Furthermore, perhaps he can bring a more consumer-side approach, meaning he hasn't been knee-deep in the backside of Microsoft's software or the PC industry itself for decades.

IBM made a similar move back in the 1990s. The company hired Louis Gerstner, a manager from the financial industry who saved the company from going out of business. Between 1993 and 2002, he pushed the company into refocusing on the IT services business, which grew to nearly 50 percent of the company's revenues. He also pushed IBM to embrace the Internet as a business.

Microsoft hasn't fallen to those IBM lows, but the company has some ground to gain in regards to the smartphone and tablet markets. The company is also trying to save face with the upcoming Windows 8.1 update after a lackluster Windows 8 launch provoked OEMs to blame Microsoft and the new interface for the rapid decline in PC sales. The CEO Microsoft's board will eventually elect to steer not only Microsoft but the industry itself over the next decade.

The other high-profile candidate for the CEO throne, Lawrie, is a long-time IT executive who spent nearly three decades at IBM working alongside John Thompson, Microsoft's lead independent director who is currently heading the special committee. He worked for UK-based financial software company Misys Plc. before joining Computer Sciences in 2012, which is currently undergoing its own turnaround plan under Lawrie.

Sources claim that Microsoft chairman and co-founder Bill Gates will likely have a veto on the new CEO choice. He's still the company's largest shareholder, and part of the four-member special committee. To this date Gates has not specified what kind of CEO he's looking for.

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  • 0 Hide
    ethanolson , September 16, 2013 9:05 AM
    They should pick up Mark Hurd.
  • 2 Hide
    FrankInKY , September 16, 2013 9:10 AM
    My first reaction to Alan Mulally as MS CEO was totally dismissive. But, on second thought he might be a good fit, I don't think MS needs another tech guy, just someone committed to producing a quality product. Someone who'll try a potential product in pre-production and be willing to reject it and send the tech guys back to development. Too much crappolla has slipped past Stevio recently, hardware, software, commercials...the list goes on.
    Get someone in who will stop the flow of crap and I think MS has a chance to recover.
  • 1 Hide
    Duckhunt , September 16, 2013 9:12 AM
    good bye creepy Uncle fester.
  • Display all 15 comments.
  • -1 Hide
    vmem , September 16, 2013 9:55 AM
    Quote:
    My first reaction to Alan Mulally as MS CEO was totally dismissive. But, on second thought he might be a good fit, I don't think MS needs another tech guy, just someone committed to producing a quality product. Someone who'll try a potential product in pre-production and be willing to reject it and send the tech guys back to development. Too much crappolla has slipped past Stevio recently, hardware, software, commercials...the list goes on.
    Get someone in who will stop the flow of crap and I think MS has a chance to recover.


    MS has some truly brilliant software and hardware engineers in their company. afterall, they've attracted the very BEST talent for the past 2 decades or so, this only changed during the recent apple and google boom. but those talent haven't left MS yet. In a sense, you're right. MS doens't need another tech guy as CEO. they need restructuring, and they need quick product cycles/turn-around times while listening to customer feedback. They can't sit on a broken windows version and bake the next one for 5+ years like they've done in the past...
  • 0 Hide
    back_by_demand , September 16, 2013 10:34 AM
    68 is too old, they want young but also relevant, an engineer and a track record for turning a lumbering giant - only 1 name fits that bill - merge or buy Yahoo and install Marissa Mayer
  • -2 Hide
    nebun , September 16, 2013 12:08 PM
    please....not someone from FORD...it's bad enough what they have done to the US car market...FORD is a JOKE
  • 1 Hide
    NightLight , September 16, 2013 1:29 PM
    i read "mike lowry" like martin lawrence did in bad boys :p 
  • 0 Hide
    cmi86 , September 16, 2013 2:16 PM
    You don't need some high powered big wig in a private jet. Just give the people what they want and you will be sucessful.
  • 1 Hide
    stevejnb , September 16, 2013 3:44 PM
    Quote:
    You don't need some high powered big wig in a private jet. Just give the people what they want and you will be sucessful.


    People had no idea that "they" wanted smartphones prior to the iPhone or tablets prior to the iPad, but "they" turned out to really, really want them once they were presented. On the other hand, people will scream to the rafters that they want products made in America, but when everything was actually made in America, "they" proved that they didn't really want it and wanted cheaper foreign made goods instead.

    Do you claim to know what the people want? Because it's pretty obviously often not what they say they want, *scream* they want, or even think they want. Which one do you propose to give them?

    Not an excuse, and MS could benefit from new leadership, no doubt, but all of the people claiming they have some idea of what the people want - or that it's as simple as to "just give the people what they want" are taking something stupidly complicated and pretending like it's some simple dynamic they've got figured out like it was writing on the wall.
  • 2 Hide
    mjcpoquiz , September 16, 2013 4:51 PM
    Finally the bald guy is moving out.
  • 1 Hide
    Nilo BP , September 16, 2013 6:32 PM
    I'm highly skeptical of the ability of a bunch of empty suits with overgrown egos to get anything done, or even to appoint someone to get anything done. Dell had a point in taking his company private. If you want a revival, you need someone who cares about the business, not a career bureaucrat whose main ability is talking smooth.
  • 0 Hide
    DjEaZy , September 17, 2013 1:37 AM
    Microsoft Investors Want a "Turnaround" Expert for New CEO? Yeah... if that would be so easy, then everybody would do it...
  • 0 Hide
    w8gaming , September 17, 2013 2:47 AM
    Actually it is not difficult to see what people want in a new Windows 8 device/tablet, if you have paid attentions to most of what most of the people have said, they all boil down to these:

    (1) Cheaper price. I cannot count how many times I have heard people ridicule ipad like price for Windows RT, or the ultrabook level pricing for Surface Pro. Microsoft will need to reduce the profit margin a bit as the most important factor now is to gain enough market share to have traction.

    (2) Direct boot to desktop, put back the start button. Microsoft is doing one of these with 8.1, and there is no true reason not to do the other. Make the customer happy should always be #1 priority for any company, especially for something as easy to achieve as this. Let the user decide when to use the Metro UI instead of forcing them to.

    Increase the install base of Windows 8 should be top priority now. With significant install base, then Microsoft can try to catch up the "service" part with Google, and "device" part with Apple later. In fact, if there is good install base of Windows 8, I am sure Google being a service company, will make sure most of their service available to Windows 8.
  • 0 Hide
    belardo , September 17, 2013 6:12 AM
    I see nothing but failures within failures.

    Microsoft's only hope... is to hire me.
  • 0 Hide
    rantoc , September 17, 2013 9:26 AM
    Anyone can do better than Balmer, just listen to what customers actually wants and then tailor it to those ideas... not the "lets see how we can milk the sheeps as much as possible and also piss on the customers while doing it!" Win8 approach that Balmer had - Now that was a suxxess....