Skip to main content

“It was Steve’s way or the highway”: Ex-Microsoft exec slams Ballmer

Steve Ballmer’s leadership of Microsoft has come under attack from a former company executive, who believes a change in CEO at the Redmond firm is crucial to its future.

Joachim Kempin, who worked at Microsoft between 1983 and 2002, selling Windows to manufacturers among other roles, launches some stinging attacks on Ballmer in his book, ‘Resolve and Fortitude: Microsoft's "secret power broker" breaks his silence’, which is published today.

Evidently keen to maximise publicity ahead its release, Kempin has spoken candidly to Reuters about the software giant’s inner struggles.

"For Microsoft to really get back in the game seriously, you need a big change in management," he said. "As much as I respect Steve Ballmer, he may be part of that in the end."

Kempin cited the treatment of departed execs Richard Beluzzo and Steven Sinofsky as symptomatic of a wider problem with Ballmer’s leadership, where rising figures within the company are ousted if they get too close to Ballmer’s throne.

Beluzzo, who was credited with the successful development and launch of the Xbox before being promoted to chief operating officer at the company, “had no room to breathe on the top,” according to Kempin. “When you work that directly with Ballmer and Ballmer believes 'maybe this guy could someday take over from me', my God, you will have less air to breathe, that's what it comes down to."

The same applied to Windows chief Steven Sinofksy, says Kempin, who left in November last year despite once being touted as a future leader of Microsoft. “It was Steve's way or the highway,” Kempin claims.

Suggesting what Ballmer’s role at the company should be, Kempin admits, "Steve is a very good business guy, but make him a chief operating officer, not a CEO, and your business is going to go gangbusters."

"I respect that guy (Ballmer), but there are some limitations in what he can and can't do and maybe he hasn't realised them himself."