John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Einhorn To Microsoft CEO: Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (And Don’t Come Back)

Add Greenlight Capital President David Einhorn to the list of folks calling for Steve Ballmer’s head. Speaking at the annual Ira Sohn Investment Research Conference in New York on Wednesday, Einhorn said it is time for Microsoft’s board to replace Ballmer as CEO, saying the company cannot thrive under his “Charlie Brown management.”

It’s the irate investor, Charlie Brown!

“Ballmer’s problem is that he’s stuck in the past,” Einhorn said. “He’s allowed competitors to beat Microsoft in huge areas, including search, mobile-communications software, tablet computing and social networking. Even worse, his response to these failures has been to pour tremendous resources into efforts to develop his way out of these holes.”

A brutal assessment of Ballmer’s leadership, likening him to the world’s quintessential loser. But as Einhorn noted, the company has been slow to venture into new markets under his direction (tablets) and is losing share in others where it has fumbled the ball (mobile).

“It’s time for Microsoft’s board to tell Steve Ballmer, ‘All right, we see what you can do, let’s give so-and-so a chance,’” Einhorn said. “His continued presence is the biggest overhang on Microsoft’s stock.”

And that may well be the case. The problem is that Einhorn’s Greenlight holds just 9 million Microsoft shares, which is 0.11 percent of those outstanding. Meanwhile, Ballmer himself holds 333 million (3.95 percent ) and Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, who put Ballmer in the CEO spot, owns 560 million (6.65 percent). Good luck convincing Microsoft’s two largest shareholders that one of them needs to go.

At $24.69, Microsoft shares are up more than 2 percent as I write this.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald