Bill Gates
Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates attends a news conference at the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) conference in London June 13, 2011. REUTERS/Paul Hackett
Three of Microsoft Corp.'s top 20 investors are lobbying the board to request Bill Gates to step down as the company's chairman.
Gates founded the software company 38 years ago, and he owns about 4.5 percent of the company priced at $277 billion. For years, Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer has been facing the heat of shareholders who have encouraged him to increase the performance and share price of Microsoft, Reuters reports. However, until now, there wasn't any focus on blaming Gates for the company's performance.
According to sources, the three investors asking the board to ask Gates to step down hold more than 5 percent of the company's stock. They remained unnamed by the sources due to the fact that the discussions were private and that it's still unseen if the board will actually follow through with the request.
Under an already set plan, Gates sells around 80 million shares of Microsoft stock each year. At this rate, by 2018 he will no longer have financial stake in the company. In 2000, he passed the role of CEO to Ballmer. Ballmer announced in August that he planned to retire within the next 12 months, which launched the company's current search for its next CEO.
That the investors are interested in removing Gates from the chairman role is connected to several issues, sources say. The three believe that Gates' role limits the implementing of new strategies and would take away from the power of a new CEO. It is also thought that Gates' current shares don't match the amount of power he still holds on the board.
Though the company's board claims that Ballmer's strategy will remain once he leaves, many investors are hoping that the new CEO won't focus so heavily on heavily strategy based approaches to growing the company. Microsoft made a net profit of $22 billion last fiscal year. But it's main business pull -- the Windows computer operating system -- is facing pressure from a decrease in personal computer sales, as tablets and smartphones continue to command an increasing share of the market.