“There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time,” Mr. Ballmer said in a statement.
“Mr. Ballmer, 57, will stay on until a successor is chosen by a special committee of the board of directors that includes John W. Thompson, the board’s lead independent director, and Mr. Gates, Microsoft’s chairman. The committee will consider both internal and external candidates and has hired an executive search firm to scout for a replacement.”
Ballmer has had a tumultuous tenure as CEO of Microsoft. He has often been criticized, sometimes unfairly, for not leading the company in the right direction. According to cnn.com:
“Ballmer has had a rocky tenure as CEO, a role he took over from Gates in 2000. The company was once the most valuable in the world, but Microsoft has lost more than half of its market value over the past decade. During that time, the stock has failed to gain any traction, mostly wavering between $25 and $35 a share.
“Investors have been critical of Ballmer for failing to anticipate the mobile computing revolution. Microsoft trails Apple and Google in the world of mobile software and devices.”
While those are fair criticisms, especially Microsoft’s late entry into the mobile arena, it hasn’t been all bad during the Ballmer years. There have been legitimate hits including Windows 7, which is the fastest-selling OS of all time, and the Xbox, which took the gaming industry by storm.
What is rarely mentioned is the true state of the company when Gates left. Gates planned his exit perfectly. It was at the end of the anti-trust lawsuits the company was facing, and Microsoft had just had one of the greatest stock price runs in investment history. Truthfully, there was no clear place for the company to go after that. Judging by those standards, Ballmer wasn’t that bad.
However, Ballmer wasn’t that great either. His lack of foresight to innovate in the mobile space will probably be the biggest blemish on his record when people look back at his time as Microsoft CEO. And the investment community is already rejoicing in the news that he’s leaving. The stock price was up some 7 percent in premarket trading following the news.