Turnaround Specialists From Ford, Computer Sciences Pitched To Lead Microsoft

Alan Mulally in Brazil

Alan Mulally from Ford Motors and Mike Lawrie from Computer Sciences are the latest possible candidates to replace Ballmer

Top Microsoft investors have requested Ford Co-CEO Alan Mullaly and Computer Sciences CEO Mike Lawrie be considered in the hunt for the software giant’s next chief executive.

According to Reuters, which quoted anonymous sources at the company, both Lawrey and Mulalley were recommended due to their extensive experience in turning struggling businesses around.

However, it is not clear whether the special committee tasked with finding a replacement for Steve Ballmer, which includes founder and chairman Bill Gates, will follow shareholder suggestions.

According to sources at the company, the new Microsoft CEO could be announced before the end of the year.

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Last month, in a surprise announcement Microsoft revealed that Ballmer will retire before September 2014. Ballmer has led the company since Gates left the executive suite in 2000, but faced criticism following the failures of Windows 8 and Microsoft’s mobile strategy. The company’s share price grew seven percent shortly after the news went public.

Ballmer Microsoft Mix 08The announcement sparked a heated debate on who should replace the controversial CEO, with former executives Stephen Elop, Stephen Sinofsky as well as Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg suggested as possible candidates. Sources at the company told Reuters that the search began with a list of around 40 names, with the committee gradually narrowing it down.

Lawrie’s previous experience includes 30 years at IBM, and engineering the turnaround of UK-based software developer Misys. At the moment, he is busy restructuring Computer Sciences as its CEO. Lawrie has worked with John Thompson, head of the Microsoft’s special committee, and spent a year at ValueAct Capital, a Microsoft shareholder that might sit on the company’s board.

Meanwhile, Mulally has been credited with rescuing Ford, America’s second biggest car manufacturer. While he has been contracted to stay there at least until the end of 2014, sources indicate that the Co-CEO could leave earlier if he finds an appropriate position. This would be a risky move for Microsoft – Mulally has plenty of business experience, but he has never worked at a tech company.

This had not fazed Ballmer, who in his 2009 article for the Time magazine wrote: “I’m rooting for him. My support is both emotional and rational. My father worked at Ford for more than 30 years. On the business side, the auto industry is an important customer and partner for Microsoft, with a long track record of shared technological innovation.

“Changing industries can upset even the most seasoned executive. Not Alan.”

Meanwhile, Elop has earned the nickname “Trojan Horse”, following last week’s announcement that Microsoft will acquire Nokia’s phone business for $7.1 billion (£4.6bn). Prior to joining Nokia as its CEO, Elop spent two years leading the Business Division at Microsoft. He is now one of the favourites to replace Ballmer, with UK bookmakers Ladbrokes giving it 1:4 odds.

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