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Microsoft CEO hunt narrowed to four candidates, report claims

Microsoft's search for Steve Ballmer's replacement as company CEO has been narrowed to just four candidates, according to a report from Reuters.

The site suggests that Ford's Alan Mulally, Microsoft's Satya Nadella, Nokia's Stephen Elop and former Skype CTO Tony Bates are the four remaining candidates for Ballmer's position.

The shortlist follows this supposed list of initial candidates, which was said to include eBay CEO John Donahoe.

It follows reports that a pocket of Microsoft shareholders is rallying to force Bill Gates' retirement, as they feel Ballmer's successor should be chosen by those with fresh eyes on the business.

Reuters adds that Ford's Mulally is the strongest candidate, but must complete his tenure at the car manufacturer until 2014.

Nokia's Elop will take up a role at Microsoft after its acquisition of the phone company is complete, leaving him free for the potential CEO mantle.

Steve Ballmer has stressed that he will retire within the next 12 months.

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