Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has announced he will be retiring within one year, during which he will be overseeing the choice of his successor.
“There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time,” said Ballmer in a statement. “My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our transformation to a devices and services company focused on empowering customers in the activities they value most. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction.
“I will retire as CEO of Microsoft within the next 12 months, after a successor is chosen. There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time.
“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.
“I am excited by our mission of empowering the world and believe in our future success. I cherish my Microsoft ownership, and look forward to continuing as one of Microsoft’s largest owners. This is an emotional and difficult thing for me to do. I take this step in the best interests of the company I love; it is the thing outside of my family and closest friends that matters to me most.”
The Board of Directors has appointed a special committee to direct the process of finding a new CEO, and it is chaired by John Thompson, the board’s lead independent director, and includes Chairman of the Board Bill Gates, Chairman of the Audit Committee Chuck Noski and Chairman of the Compensation Committee Steve Luczo.
The special committee is working with Heidrick & Struggles International Inc., a leading executive recruiting firm, and will consider both external and internal candidates.
“The board is committed to the effective transformation of Microsoft to a successful devices and services company,” Thompson said. “As this work continues, we are focused on selecting a new CEO to work with the company’s senior leadership team to chart the company’s course and execute on it in a highly competitive industry.”
“As a member of the succession planning committee, I’ll work closely with the other members of the board to identify a great new CEO,” said Gates. “We’re fortunate to have Steve in his role until the new CEO assumes these duties.”
The 57 year old Ballmer joined Microsoft in 1980 as the firm’s 30th employee, and was the first business manager hired by founder Bill Gates. Over the next 20 years, Ballmer headed up several divisions, including operations, operating systems development, and sales and support before being named executive vice president in 1992.
He was promoted to president in 1998 and was named CEO in 2000 and continued to serve as president in tangent until 2001.