Top Microsoft investors urge appointment of turnaround expert as CEO

Three of Microsoft’s top 20 investors want an expert in “turnarounds” to be appointed as the successor to outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer with rumours a new CEO will be named by the end of the year.

Sources close to the matter told Reuters that Ford Motor Company CEO Alan Mulally and Computers Sciences Corp CEO Mike Lawrie have been mooted as ideal candidates to follow the retiring Ballmer.

A list of 40 internal and external candidates is being whittled down by the day with rumours the process is going so well that a CEO could be named by the end of the current calendar year.

Mulally is favoured as he was responsible for the reversal in fortunes of Ford during his over six years with the firm so far. His plan is to stay at Ford until the end of 2014 with sources adding that if he is presented with “an appealing new role” then the 68-year-old will step down sooner.

The other candidate, Lawrie, is an experienced IT executive credited with turning around the fortunes of Misys Plc, a UK financial software firm, before moving to Computer Sciences last year. Lawrie’s career was mainly spent at IBM where he was for three decades and worked closely with John Thompson, Microsoft’s lead independent director that is heading the special committee to appoint Ballmer’s successor.

The special committee handling the search for the new CEO was appointed by Thompson and is made up of Bill Gates, the chairman of Microsoft’s board of directors, Chuck Noski, chairman of the audit committee, and Steve Luczo, chairman of the compensation committee.

Ballmer announced his surprise departure last month after over ten years with the company and stated that he would be handing over the controls to a person capable of handling the firm’s transition to a devices and services company.

Shortly after this Microsoft acquired Nokia’s phone business and licensed its patents catalogue for ten years for €5.44 billion [£4.6 billion] with analysts sceptical as to whether it was the correct move to make.