Kara Swisher

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Microsoft Director Says CEO Choice Will Not Be Made Until Early 2014

Microsoft director John Thompson, who leads CEO search

Microsoft director John Thompson, who leads CEO search

John Thompson, the Microsoft director who is leading the search for a CEO to replace outgoing leader Steve Ballmer, said today in a blog post that the board will not make its choice until early next year.

Wrote Thompson: “We identified over 100 possible candidates, talked with several dozen and then focused our energy intensely on a group of about 20 individuals, all extremely impressive in their own right. As you would expect, as this group has narrowed, we’ve done deeper research and investigation, including with the full Board. We’re moving ahead well, and I expect we’ll complete our work in the early part of 2014.”

While the timing is still within the time frame laid out by the company after Ballmer announced in August that he would be leaving, many inside the company — especially weary employees — had hoped that the new CEO would be named by the end of the year.

So did I — but nope! According to sources close to the situation, the board is taking its time to “find the right person for the job,” and believe the crush of the holiday season and the debate on who would make the best leader is still ongoing.

Sources with knowledge of the situation said that the directors are still mulling whether the company needs a more experienced leader — in the mode of Ford CEO Alan Mulally — or a more technical executive, such as Microsoft enterprise head Satya Nadella.

It’s all a bit Hamlet, but the intense press scrutiny also has not been helping and has made the situation appear more than a little chaotic. Thus, I guess, time to just breathe.

Interestingly, Thompson reiterated the need for a technical CEO, talking about the search update by Microsoft chairman Bill Gates at its recent shareholders meeting.

“He noted that this is a complex role to fill, involving a complex business model and the ability to lead a highly technical organization and work with top technical talent,” wrote Thompson.

Technical, people! Got it?

That might seem to rule out no one now in the mix, though, which also has included Microsoft strategy head Tony Bates. There are also various and sundry dark horses being considered, said sources.

In any case, I am also still in the running, very closely trailing Gates, Mulally and Nadella, according to this poll I created and designed and authored and am manipulating egregiously via Twitter begging and a lot of Mama Pope attitude. Now we have time to really stuff the ballot box, so vote early and often!

And here’s the full post by Thompson:

On Aug. 23, we announced that Steve Ballmer would be retiring from Microsoft within 12 months, and the Board of Directors was launching a search for a replacement, looking both externally and internally. Since then, we’ve been focused on finding the best possible person to lead the company. As we approach the end of the calendar year, there has been natural interest in getting an update on where we are in the process. I’m writing to share this with you here.

As the chair of the Board’s search committee, I’m pleased with our progress. The Board has taken the thoughtful approach that our shareholders, customers, partners and employees expect and deserve. After defining our criteria, we initially cast a wide net across a number of different industries and skill sets. We identified over 100 possible candidates, talked with several dozen and then focused our energy intensely on a group of about 20 individuals, all extremely impressive in their own right. As you would expect, as this group has narrowed, we’ve done deeper research and investigation, including with the full Board. We’re moving ahead well, and I expect we’ll complete our work in the early part of 2014.

At the same time, Microsoft has continued to drive hard. Our employees produced strong quarterly results, announced in October. They released new versions of Windows, our Surface products and many other offerings. And the launch of Xbox One was experienced around the world. All of us on the Board appreciate their continued focus and commitment.

At our shareholder meeting in November, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates provided an update on our search process. He noted that this is a complex role to fill, involving a complex business model and the ability to lead a highly technical organization and work with top technical talent.

Microsoft has had only two CEOs in its 38-year history. As a Board, we are determined and confident that the company’s third CEO will lead Microsoft to renewed and continued success. We’re looking forward to 2014 and the opportunities and decisions that lie ahead.

John Thompson


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