Ballmer Fist
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Top Microsoft investors urge company to throw Ford and Computer Sciences CEOs on the shortlist

Reuters reports that at least three of the top 20 investors in Microsoft desire a quick turnaround with the departure of current CEO Steve Ballmer and his replacement - whoever that may be. The investors have urged the company to look at Ford Motor CEO Alan Mulally and Computer Sciences CEO Mike Lawrie for the role, placing both on the shortlist.

The special committee, which is currently conducting the CEO search with the help of external services, have been meeting with shareholders after Ballmer announced his departure from Redmond. Sources close to the company have confirmed with Reuters they could have a replacement set by the end of the year, including both internal and external candidates.

Unfortunately, both CEOs named in the report were unable to comment. Stephen Elop, CEO of Nokia, will be returning to Microsoft due to the purchase between the two companies, and will also be positioned as another candidate to succeed Ballmer. So what makes both Mulally and Lawrie so special in the eyes of investors? They're both known for turning around companies.

It should be noted that Microsoft isn't in any immediate trouble. The company continues to publish financial reports with profit, despite the falling sales of PCs. What is required is a fresh injection of life into the company, to match what has been done on the front with the new logo, unifying of products and the radical move to the Modern UI.

Windows Phone as a platform is still struggling to take off, no matter how positive individual region reports are. It's on the tipping point with recent news of Windows Phone hitting 8 percent across Europe; an accomplishment for both Microsoft and its OEM partners with the billions that have been invested already. Then you have Surface tablets to take into account, which we hope will be addressed with the upcoming Surface 2 event.

Whoever may be selected for the top seat at Microsoft, we're excited to see what new ideas and plans will be introduced.

Source: Reuters; thanks, Daniel, for the tip!

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Reader comments

Top Microsoft investors urge company to throw Ford and Computer Sciences CEOs on the shortlist

98 Comments

I love Ford and I love what Alan Mulally has done to orchestrate their spectacular turn around.  He would be an incredible CEO, but frankly, I'd like my two corporate loves (Ford and MSFT) to remain separate.

The with ford and how i see it, they are two very different companies. Just because Mulally was successful at Ford doesnt mean he'll do the same with Microsoft. The infrusture at Ford, in my opinion, is simple and not as complex as MS. Ford had to refocus it's ability to produce reliable cars, good looking cars and market the product well. it's easy to see what they need to do.  Though it could be similiar on some levels at MS, MS has a whole lot more layers and complexity, you have to focus on hardware and software quality control, build strategic alliances with other hardware manufactures and service providers, building products people dont even know they want yet. IE, windows phone, surface and Windows 8. These are just some of the complexities a new CEO might understand before taking the helm at MS. Oh and a whole lot more bureaucracy at MS to add.

In my view the new boss must be external candidate. The most important step from WP of view is to get big guns like Samsung and Sony start producing WP hardware. Just don't tell me MS can't convince them. Its all down to business and numbers. If MS waive OS fee and subsidies production (for limited time, let's say 2 yrs) everyone will be winner.
Sadly with only Nokia onboard global progress is likely to be slow.

Do you see any differences between transport vehicle makers and software company? Probably not. I do.

Really, what could go wrong? I mean, if a cola guy can run Apple.... oh wait... nevermind....
 
lol.  You never know though.  Some of these guys really are masterful at what they do,  no matter what the company is.

Oh you mean the CEO of Pepsi, oh wait that's right Pepsi already sucks compared to coke we don't want that LOL.

Mulally isn't just an engineer, hes a very good businessman. My bet is Mulally will actually do market research and give the public what they want, unlike Ballmer who's arrogance and reliance too much on Windows is what's put MS in their current uninspiring position.

Mulally is way past his prime. He should be pastured at the Jurassic Park. Besides, if all you do is hack down a company to smaller size, I can do that too. No, somebody younger and innovative is needed at MSFT and that is NOT Mulally. If an outsider is what they want, bring in Elon Musk, who is younger, innovative, and a visionary.

If he becomes CEO I will see MS needing a new CEO in less of 2 years. Why? Old age anyone. Elop is my choice. Why? Because he has been on both sides of the fence especially on international know how of the mobile business. Under his leadership Nokia pushes out phones in months not years after initially demonstrating it to the public. The media (non-MS haters) love the guy. I actually stop yo listen to what he has to say. Anybody else does that??

Sounds to me there is some people who do not want Elop as the CEO for being the one responsible of all the woes at Nokia.

In charge when what happended. There are numurous article detailing nokia's problems and what lead to their downfall. The were working on Symbian and Meego for years and coulld never iron out all the problems. Nokia was already on the way down, going from $40/sh to $10/sh when Elop came in. You can blame him for chosing WP over Android. No one really knows if Android would have made Nokia more successful.It sure didn't help HTC much. You can't blame him for Nokia's downfall. That started way before he came in.

All the problem Nokia are suffering were due to OPK and the old guards. Remember Symbian S60 5th Edition? What a disaster that was.

When you look at Elop's background its almost a no-brainer that he should be the guy. He's got the perfect blend of related experience, knowledge of the industry, people skills and vision.
 
I would be very surprised and dissapointed if he's not the guy.

Mullaly might've turned the debt around. But he's made the company worse. He's killing Formula Ford.

I too can hack down a company to size too, which is basically what Mulally did. MS needs a younger and innovative visionary for CEO - maybe somebody like Elon Musk. Besides, Mulally's name came up in the Reuters article together with Mike Lawrie as suggested names for CEO from 3 investors. The mention of Mike Lawrie is a giveaway because he was a former partner (2005 to 2006) with ValueAct. Right away you know who is behind the Reuters article mentioning Mulally and Lawrie as CEO.

lol, Nokia was doomed when Elop took over. The notion that Nokia could have done anything else besides Windows Phone is hilarious. The N9 was not that good and Meego was not going to save them.

First, reports show that he wasn't involved in selling Nokia.
Second, Nokia was struggling before Elop got there.
Third, who's your choice?

Elop was given control of a plane that was about to crash. He managed to bring it in for a safe landing. See Blackberry for an example of what could've happened if they stuck to what they were doing.

Oh please not Ford. He may have turned Ford around (still debatable), but he has zero vision for design.

Think about it though. Your at a business table you look at the guy on the other end of the table and say hey check this out! You then sit you tablet on the table and roll it to him. Lol yep you didn't even see your own genius :D

Oh didn't you know? The business table has wheels too so just yank it to the right so the tablet-on-wheels doesn't fall off. All courtesy of Mulally.

Your CEO does not need design vision.  He needs to attract people with design vision and get them to colloborate with hardware and software developers.  The CEO does need vision at a higher level of how a large corporation will move forward together to achieve that vision.  

The CEO does need a vision in design. Because if he can't see it, how is he going to hire good designers? All final designs are still approved by the CEO. Car industry CEOs should never be involved with tech world. Those are completely different markets. If there is one auto CEO that has vision for great tech, it's Elon Musk.

Very true. You also must respect your CEO. Bringing in a CEO from a different type of field with zero experience/credibility in the tech industry is not a wise move. I can see moral going downhill.

CEO cares more about strategy and not tactical or operational matters. He may care about how the design strategy is working but the work itself is in others person hands. I'm not sure how Microsoft makes their decisions about products but if the CEO has to approve the final product then you have the answer to the question: Why are they moving so slow? R= the CEO has to approve final designs and if something is not right then they have to start all over again.

ballmer must have approved the missing start button, for what? for saving a cm2 on the screen. and don't get me started with the disappearing scroll bars on current metro. also should i mention the almost impossible to spot scrollbar in windows 8 desktop? who on earth decided that my scroll bar ahould be almost the same colour with the background.
 
these are massive failures that even a monkey would have spotted, why make my beloved windows more difficult to operate. just for being cool, what cool? a session with 10 test users would have spotted this. the people who approved these very fundamental changes should be sent to google to damage them too and banned from microsoft for ever, like that idiot synofksi. 
 
i don't think that a guy from ford is the right choice, he needs to be able to make techie decisions to an extend, he needs to undestand technology and know the difference between silverlight, flash, html5. why .net is the strongest asset microsoft has, why sql server rocks. why you should employ people with critical thinking instead of people who do what their manager says.

That's not the CEO's job.. His job is to know strategy, and business... He could do a very well job.. If im not mistaken he doesn't have a background in automotive either...

I too can hack down a company to size - and I don't need a background in automotive either to be able to do that.

Yes, because a CEO of one company can totally be the CEO of ANY company. I know, lets play CEO musical chairs, everybody gets a turn

That's exactly how it works... Go look at the backgrounds of CEO's of successful companies... You'd be surprised❗

And take a look at Mulally's age... and you'd be surprised! He's too old to be running MSFT. A much younger man who is innovative and a visionary is what MSFT needs - somebody like Elon Musk.

Yep, wouldn't that be something? Sync, for those who have it, does some great things and has several maddening things as well-- such as not working as well as it should with, of all things, WP. Anyone can dream of what it SHOULD be... It's just amazing that no one at Microsoft or Ford can figure it out. Maybe Mercedes will.

These so called active investors only want short term stock price boost and don't care about the future of MS. MS doesn't need a quick turn around guy, but need a visioner and leader for the next 10 years. Alan is a good CEO, but does he have a clear mind of where the tech industry would be in 10 years? I doubt it.

Clearly these people were not paying close attention to Ron Johnson /JC Penny and John Browett/Apple Retail.
 
Success in one does not necessarily translate to success in another.
 
Microsoft needs new blood but at the same time needs someone with a technology vision and someone that will give some level of continuity to MSFT's new direction.
 
People clamoring for "radical change" at MSFT - be careful what you wish for. Your Nokia phones might end up running Android.
 
You want someone that can turn things around, I think Elop is the guy. If you objectively look at Nokia's financials, the turn around began months ago. They are not in positive terrirory yet, but the bleeding stopped and started moving in the right direction. If Nokia had more cash, another year would see a positive P&L and solid growth.
 
Everyone bags on Elop, but if you look at what he has done in his short tenure at Nokia, isn't that what you want for MSFT? And MSFT starts out for him with solid financials and no real pressure there.
 

Thanks again, He now has experience, he now knows what the users want, Sure i think he is the guy

Honestly not sold on Elop. I wouldn't throw him out of the conversation. But Alan certainly has proven himself. You think Steve Balmer is truly a computer guy? At least Alan is a pretty accomplished engineer and accomplished business man. So Yes please include Alan in the conversation. And why would we need to wait for MSFT to be in shambles to hire a CEO like him...why not hire Alan to get the company a bit more profitable and protected against failure? Hire visionaries as your advisors, hire visionaries as your engineers, hire visionaries as your designers, hire visionaries as your marketing exects...I dont see how Alan is at all a bad decision.

I largely agree, except that the visionary should be the CEO (provided he's also a master strategist and skilled businessman, not a crazy visionary like Doc Brown in Back to the Future). He/She can hire a great CFO and great OPS leaders, but the combined master visionary and strategist is the rarest breed. The guy who sees the future and can plan the strategy to get there, that's the CEO. You don't want a tactical CEO with a visionary at his side. You want the visionary running the company, setting the goals and strategy, with competent people to ensure proper execution at his side.
 
I don't know if Elop or Mulally is better for the job, but in terms of talents, the above rule is almost always true. Only exceptions I can think of involve running a business through a bankruptcy, which is almost purely a tactical process.

Huh... The more I think about this, the more I want Elop to focus on the devices division. That entire division (Hardware, OS, Apps, Services) needs it's own CEO. I don't think it will get the attention and cohesion if they don't have someone moving towards a single common goal and Elop should be that guy.
 
Mullaly is a great choice but not a long term choice. He's just about ready for retirement. He can get in, get the engine running smoothly again and then let Elop take over. ;)

From all the momentum, since Mulally left Ford, and all the press reports about him, and how he's such good 'pals' with Steve Ballmer----it's looking like Mulally is going to be 'the guy' over at Microsoft.
 

Why would Alan Mulally want to leave Ford? He just stated last week that he has no intention of leaving there for at least a few more years. The worst thing MSFT could do is listen to those Corporate Raider guys. All they want to do is split-up MSFT so that all that is left is worth nothing. Of course those guys will be long gone as well.

For all the Mulally fans out there, if he is so great, how come Sync/FordMyTouch is still such a disaster? (I own a 2013 Ford Fusion).
 
It's riddled with bugs, has crap Windows Phone integration, and doesn't even support Siri. You have a bug you want to log with them? Good luck with that. Have tried several times to get their attention on some stuff and you end up in a support email black hole.
 
If after several years he still can't get this right, what makes you think he's suitable as MSFT CEO?

I agree that we don't need employees that close to retirement age in Microsoft. As far as visioneers go, of the 32k employees Microsoft is inheriting, don't we think we will have plenty of them since they've helped designed the current Lumia line of devices? Or have we forgotten already? Besides, I've only heard of one person leaving Nokia since the sale was announces.

Is Microsoft going in the wrong direction? why are we talking of turning it around as if it is moving in the wrong direction, i wish Elop gets the job.

I don't know, but these "top" investors are interested in one thing: money.
 
They don't care about your Windows Phone or your XBOX. If they think selling off the pieces or eliminating them all together will make them $$, they'll do it in a hearthbeat. So be careful about thinking their recommendations are driven by anything other than cold hard cash.

I would agree with ValueAct that Ballmer needs to go. MS needs new blood IF for nothing else but to help reimage themselves into something more "sexy" than they currently are. With that said, of course ValueAct just cares about the $$. They are an activist investor. Thanfully, people like Gates are still on the board who have their heart strings tied to the company.

Also, as one article posted, Bill Gates will have a lot of say on who gets the nod as next CEO.  Gates still has a LOT of pull on the board.

I realize this is anal and I promise, no trolling, but the company is not called Computer Sciences. The company is officially CSC. Formerly known as Computer Sciences Corporation.
I left CSC for Microsoft about a month after Mike took over the helm at CSC and in talking to my friends who are still left, it's been a brutal transition. He is trimming the fat all over the place.
It's not a bad thing, but it has been swift and severe and usually the layers are the ones quickest to go.
It'll be interesting to see this play out. (CSC is as big as Microsoft employee numbers wise -- but can't shake a stick at the revenue of Microsoft.)

I think Alan Mulally would be an excellent, if not the top choice to turn around Microsoft.  I believe he is truly capable of executing and possibly refining the "One Microsoft" mantra for restructuring Microsoft.  One of the early articles I read about him after he took the CEO position for Ford was that he made his engineers listen to some of the harsh critics for some of the vehicles that Ford had back in 2006.  Read the article to learn more about what this guy can do and honestly I can say that he would be a very effective leader for Microsoft.
http://www.evolvingexcellence.com/blog/2007/05/mulally_culture.html

For the love of god and company do NOT hire from CSC's executive team. By far one of the worst decisions they could make...
 
Nothing like operating a business and telling the staff "Oh hey we need to meet certain obligations on Wallstreet so we're going to be deducting the general employee's pay for 2 weeks to make up those obligations due to our poor planning"
 
CSC's management is a joke

Had CSC as a consultant at my last company. Sleazy, unethical and untrustworthy to the core. They'd fit great as Google's CEO.

100% Agree...Microsoft would be better off leaving the seat vacant than filling it with someone from CSC's executive group.

This is one of my big problems with corporate America; celebrity CEOs. I don't think experience these guys is relevant to what Microsoft needs to do. But this is the problem endemic to so many companies.

Alan Mulally is a bit different that most in that he actually started out as an engineer. But that was a long time ago and in a very different world than the one Microsoft inhabits. I'm not sure what Mike Lawrie would bring to the table, except that given his background he'd probably shift the company's focus away from the consumer space to focus on corporate clients, at the expense of Windows Phone, Xbox and everything else they've been trying to do over the past few years.

It might make idiot investors happy, but hiring one of these guys isn't necessarily the best move for the company. It's possible, and very likely, that the best man for the job would be someone already working at Microsoft. That's where they're most likely to find someone with the passion and relevant experience to move the company in the right direction. I'd certainly favor Stephen Elop over either of these guys.

I don't think that the Ford CEO should be put on the short list until they release a windows phone API for the sync. Apple and Android are supported but no windows phone? Give me a break. Its a Microsoft product! Short list to the can, if you ask me.