Steve Ballmer, the long-time and much-embattled CEO of Microsoft(s msft) will retire within the year according to a Microsoft statement posted Friday morning.
The news comes after months of rumbling on Wall Street that Microsoft stock, under Ballmer, has underperformed. Earlier this week Nomura Securities analyst Rick Sherlund pretty much predicted that the specter of activisim sparked by ValueAct could force major changes at the top.
Microsoft said Ballmer will help guide the search along with a special committee chaired by Microsoft independent director and former Symantec CEO John Thompson; Microsoft co-founder and chairman Bill Gates, and Chairman of the Audit committee Chuck Noski and Chairman of the Compensation Committee Steve Luczo. The special committee will work with executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles International will consider both external and internal candidates.
In his email to employees Ballmer,who joined the company in 1980 as employee number 30 and became CEO in 2000, wrote:
“I am proud of what we have achieved. We have grown from $7.5 million to nearly $78 billion since I joined Microsoft, and we have grown from employing just over 30 people to almost 100,000. I feel good about playing a role in that success and having committed 100 percent emotionally all the way. We have more than 1 billion users and earn a great profit for our shareholders. We have delivered more profit and cash return to shareholders than virtually any other company in history.”
No one would dispute Microsoft’s status as an IT giant, but a succession of bad or missed calls, over the past decade or so — on phones, on tablets, on the internet itself — tarnished that reputation. Some die hards will no doubt say Bill Gates should come back to the helm, but that’s highly unlikely. And to be fair, Gates was CEO when the company “missed” the internet.
Stay tuned for updates.
Microsoft stock price since Ballmer was made CEO in Jan. 2000.