Nearly a week after Reuters columnist Robert Cyran called for Bill Gates to leave Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ:MSFT), top investors at the tech titan apparently heeded his words.
Three of the top 20 investors in the company are lobbying the board to press for the founder, who turns 58 later this month, to step down as chairman, unnamed sources told the Reuters newswire.
Steve Ballmer, whose 13-year tenure as chief executive was marred by hesitation to jump into the mobile and tablet markets, announced his retirement in August, days before a deal to buy Nokia’s smartphone unit was finalized. The acquisition was panned by critics who say Nokia’s device business is failing to compete with those of Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (KRX:005930) or Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and that such a major purchase should inaugurate, not consummate, a CEO’s reign.
But while onlookers dissected the outgoing administration's wins and follies, Cyran turned an eye to Ballmer’s boss.
“Everyone seemed to be harping on Ballmer,” Cyran told International Business Times. “But the problem is that Gates hasn’t really done the things that a good chairman is supposed to do.”
Allowing Ballmer to depart just after buying the Finnish phonemaker and before finding a replacement demonstrated Gates’ ineffectiveness as a leader at Microsoft, Cyran said.
Plus, Gates has reduced his stake in the company to about 4.5 percent in recent years. If he continues selling shares at the same pace, Cyran said, “he’ll be completely out of the stock within five years.” The trio of investors urging Gates’ ouster collectively own 5 percent.
“The reaction [to my column] seems to be very polarized,” Cyran said in a phone interview Wednesday morning. “It’s either people that say: ‘We totally agree.’ Or, a lot of people say ‘Bill Gates is a genius, you shouldn’t fire him.’”
Cyran said it’s unlikely that Gates will ever pare down his time at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to take a firmer grasp of Microsoft.