Bill Gates may no longer be CEO of Microsoft, but he still serves as chairman of the board and remains a major influence in the technology industry.
However, a small but vocal group of major Microsoft investors may be trying to convince the rest of the board to get Gates to resign his chairmanship.
Reuters reported Wednesday that three of the top 20 company investors want Gates to resign so Microsoft can make the big changes necessary to keep up with its competitors.
Todd Bishop, co-founder of Seattle’s GeekWire technology blog, says the investors may think that Gates is acting as a roadblock to fundamental changes at Microsoft.
“One of those changes could be releasing more money to shareholders in the form of ambitious share buybacks or potentially larger dividends,” said Bishop.
The long-term strategy may also be to make sure that the next CEO of Microsoft will be someone who will “shake things up” and not invest in the status quo, Bishop added.
The Reuters story - which quotes anonymous sources close to the board members - is the latest evidence of a struggle among board members, executives and shareholders. That struggle could have resulted in CEO Steve Ballmer announcing his retirement earlier than anticipated.
Ballmer has already instituted major changes that attempt to bring Microsoft up to speed with the changes going on in the tech industry. Packaged software and desktop computers have given way to cloud-based software tools and mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Under Ballmer, Microsoft has introduced the Surface tablet, announced its intention to buy mobile phone maker Nokia and reorganized its divisions to focus more on devices and services.
However, the investors may have gone public with their complaints about Gates - who sits on the board committee that will choose Ballmer’s successor - to make sure the company’s next top executive will continue to pursue new ideas and strategies.
“It’s really a period of unprecedented change for Microsoft,” Bishop said, “and just the fact that investors are even bringing this up underscores how much things have been changing.”
Ballmer announced in August that he would resign within 12 months. Former Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Alan Mulally, who is currently CEO at Ford Motor Co., is rumored as a possible replacement.