Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Steve Ballmer Gets a “B” Grade From Microsoft’s Board

Software giant Microsoft just filed its annual proxy statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and it contains the assessment by the company’s board of directors of CEO Steve Ballmer.

Ballmer takes home a base salary of $682,000, and his bonus doubled it to just shy of $1.4 million. But it could have been higher. The board had the authority to award Ballmer a bonus worth up to 200 percent of his base salary and decided not to, opting instead to keep it at 100 percent.

But see, it’s not about the money. This is all the equivalent of change found under a couch cushion when compared to the worth of Ballmer’s holdings of Microsoft shares, which are worth about $14 billion or so. It’s about what Microsoft’s board thinks, especially at a time when some people have started to argue that it’s time for a change at Microsoft’s top.

There is, for instance, the issue of Windows Mobile, which Ballmer readily admits isn’t selling “as well as we would have liked.” And what about that 2 percent decline in Windows revenue?

The board’s verdict:

For fiscal year 2011, the Compensation Committee recommended and the independent members of our Board of Directors approved an Incentive Plan award of $682,500, which was 100% of his target award. The award was based on his performance appraisal and other relevant information considered by the independent members of the Board, including: Mr. Ballmer’s performance against his individual commitments; the operating income performance of the Company relative to 25 large technology companies (a group that includes most of our Technology Peers); successful product launches including Kinect for Xbox and Office 365, enhancements to Windows Azure and Bing; continued progress positioning the company as a leader in the cloud and cloud-based infrastructure; key partnerships with Facebook and Nokia; significant progress in development of the next generation of Windows; work toward the successful acquisition of Skype; lower than expected initial sales of Windows Phone 7; the 2% decline in revenue for the Windows and Windows Live Division; the need for further progress in new form factors; and an overall strong financial year in which Microsoft reported record revenue of $69.9 billion, record operating income of $27.1 billion, and record earnings per share of $2.69 representing 12%, 13%, and 28% growth, respectively.

Yay Ballmer. So how did the rest of the senior management team do? Here’s what the board says in the proxy filing.

CFO Peter Klein: He got $3.6 million, which was 120 percent of his target award, and credit for focusing on operating expenses and on the capital allocation plan, which resulted in $16.9 billion of cash returned to shareholders by way of share buybacks and dividends. He also did the due diligence on the Skype acquisition.

Kurt DelBene, president of the Microsoft Office Division: Annual revenue from the division increased 17 percent to $20 billion; Office 2010 was the fastest-selling version in the product’s history; and Office 365 got out the door. Plus Sharepoint, Exchange and Lync had “double digit growth.” Based on his fiscal year 2011 performance, DelBene received an incentive plan award of $7.25 million, 132 percent of his target award.

Steven Sinofsky, president Windows and Windows Live: Revenue is falling slightly in this group because of the decline in consumer PC sales, but Windows 8 is on the way. For all this Sinofsky, got $6.3 million or 90 percent of his target award.

Kevin Turner, COO: With Microsoft reporting annual revenue of $70 billion and operating income of $27 billion, up 13 percent, Turner earned an incentive plan award of $9.63 million, 110 percent of his target.


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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus