Gates And Ballmer Risk Investor Ire With Microsoft Board Move

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer look to be set on a collision course with some of Microsoft’s top investors

Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates are seeking re-election to the software giant’s board of directors, according to the latest proxy filing from the company.

Their move potentially puts them at odds with a number of leading Microsoft shareholders who reportedly want new people in charge to oversee the transformation of Redmond’s fortunes.

Nervous Times

bill gates MicrosoftEarlier this week, a report suggested that some leading Microsoft investors pressuring Microsoft’s board of directors to remove co-founder Bill Gates from his role as chairman of the software goliath.

The three Microsoft investors are thought to collectively hold more than five percent of the company’s stock, and are apparently concerned that Gates wields too much power at Microsoft due to his 4.5 percent stake in company, which still makes him the largest individual shareholder.

They feel his presence and shareholding could limit the power of a new CEO to make substantial changes at the software giant. Microsoft’s investors are also said to be concerned over Gates’ role on the special committee searching for the successor to Steve Ballmer.

Collision Course?

In July, Ballmer announced a strategic overhaul and reorganisation of the company that will see Microsoft consolidate into eight new divisions –  engineering, marketing, business development and evangelism, advanced strategy and research, finance, HR, legal, and COO – before it was announced he would leave his role in the next 12 months. He too is also seeking re-elecation to the board while the hunt for his replacement goes on.

A TechWeekEurope poll of readers named tech fugitive John McAfee as their favourite to replace Ballmer, but a more realistic candidate is former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop as a contender. Other favourites include the likes of Ford CEO Alan Mulally, as well as Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg, and even Vmware CEO Paul Maritz.

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