|Steve Ballmer will retire as Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft within the next 12 months. The announcement from the software maker states that he will step down once a successor has been chosen, with Ballmer continuing as CEO in the mean time in order to continue directing the company after it recently undertook a management reshuffle and a change in focus to services and devices.
The statement and accompanying internal e-mail from Ballmer to Microsoft employees does not hint at the reasoning behind the change of CEO. "There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time," wrote Ballmer, later advising that his original retirement plans would have occurred "in the middle of our company's transformation to a devices and services company. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction."
The Board of Directors at Microsoft has now appointed a special committee to select the next CEO. Members of the committee includes lead independent director John Thompson and chairman Bill Gates, with Heidrick & Struggles working with the group to go through internal and external executive candidates. "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, continuing "We're fortunate to have Steve in his role until the new CEO assumes these duties."
Ballmer initially joined Microsoft as employee number thirty in 1980, and succeeded Gates as CEO in 2000. The company has felt pressure to drop Ballmer a few times during his tenure, after a relative lack of improvement on share prices and financial performance. The next CEO could face similar pressures if investors and executives don't see a quick-enough improvement.