Close this search box.
Close this search box.

After Ballmer, What?

Since he announced his intention to step down as CEO of Microsoft Steve Ballmer has triggered a world wide betting game as to who will succeed him. Microsoft’s board has appointed a special committee to help decide if the next chief executive will be an insider like Julie Larson-Green, or the prodigal Stephen Elop of Nokia. (Ladbrokes, the London betting agents give Elop a 5 to 1 advantage.) But the central issue of concern is what the company needs to do to transform since it lost its dominate position in computing. Microsoft once ruled the tech world. Now it’s one player among many. Will the new CEO have his or her options foreclosed?

The Seattle tech giant has only had two leaders in its 33 years and Bill Gates is still on the board. Ballmer’s decision to retire comes at a time when the company also faces a strategy reset. It followed news of the company’s $7 bn deal acquiring Nokia which in a single stroke turned former Microsoft executive Stephen Elop who is currently Nokia’s CEO from an external candidate to and inside candidate. In a report by the Wall Street Journal’s Don Clark, “some of the most fundamental decisions facing Microsoft already seem settled.” Given that most incoming CEOs normally don’t like to have limited options and prefer a free hand in setting strategy this may turn the job into something of a hard sell.

Microsoft has yet to face the succession questions that challenge most big companies. Founder Bill Gates handpicked Ballmer as his replacement 13 years ago. Gates will be joined on the committee to select a new chief executive by John Thompson, the former CEO of Symantec, Chuck Noski, the former CFO of Bank of America, and Steve Luczo, the CEO of Seagate—all Microsoft board members—with help from executive recruiting firm Heidrick & Struggles. Both internal and external candidates will be considered. Some sources say that those outsiders being considered include eBay’s John Donahoe, and even a former board member such as Netflix’s Reed Hastings. Then there’s Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook Chief Operating Officer. Sandberg is the person who has arguably made the biggest impact on Facebook’s growth next to Mark Zuckerberg.

Elop’s chances are far from assured despite sentiment that the deal is the best solution for a mobile-device operation that already relied heavily on Microsoft Windows technology. Not very long ago Finnish investors referred to him as “Stephen Eflop.”

Yet he did run Microsoft’s profitable business division, and is the only executive in the global handset business to exclusively use the Microsoft mobile platform. (Nokia now sells nearly every Windows phone that is sold world-wide.)




  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.