Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has announced that he will step down from his position as Chief Executive at Microsoft within in a year. Microsoft hasn't given a more specific time frame. Instead, the company says Ballmer will leave once the process of choosing his successor is complete.
"There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time," Ballmer said in a statement today. "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."
Microsoft's board has put together a special committee to find a new CEO. Aside from chairman and former CEO Bill Gates, the committee includes Chairman of the Audit Committee Chuck Noski and Chairman of the Compensation Committee Steve Luczo. This group will be led by John Thompson, the board's independent director.
Gates is quoted as saying Microsoft is lucky to have Ballmer during the transition. Ballmer joined Microsoft as business manager in 1980 having met Gates at Harvard in the 70's. He succeeded Bill as CEO 13 years ago, in 2000. Microsoft has received criticism for missing the boat on a lot of hot product categories over the last 10 years, including smartphones and tablets (though it's working hard to make up the ground there). No doubt Microsoft will be looking for a product focused leader as it moves forward with the process for finding a new CEO.
Interestingly, in his email to Microsoft staff, he said that his stepping down was in Microsoft's best interests. In other words, Steve isn't leaving to work on his herb garden and enjoy the life of a retired billionaire. He's leaving because Microsoft needs someone who can do a better job. Apparently, shareholders agree, as Microsoft shares are up more than 7 percent following the news that Microsoft is looking for a new chief. Who that will be is the question on everyone's lips.