Microsoft CEO Hunt a Tough Bet as Web Gamblers Favor Elop

A gambling website picked Nokia Oyj (NOK1V) Chief Executive Officer Stephen Elop, who has presided over a 62 percent decline in market value, as the favorite to become Microsoft Corp. (MSFT)’s new CEO.

Elop, a former Microsoft executive, has 5-to-1 odds to be hired as Steve Ballmer’s replacement, according to Ladbrokes Plc (LAD), the U.K.-based gambling operator. He leads a pool including internal candidates Kevin Turner and Julie Larson-Green and outsiders like Apple Inc. (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook -- a 100-to-1 dark horse.

Microsoft is searching for a CEO who can help the biggest software maker fight back against competition in mobile, search, video, gaming and personal-computing development. Microsoft said last week Ballmer, its leader since 2000, would step down within the next 12 months.

Elop was the president of Microsoft’s business division, where he was in charge of Microsoft Office, before taking the top job at Nokia. The mobile-phone maker announced a strategic partnership with Microsoft just months after Elop became CEO. Elop likened his company’s mobile position at the time to a burning oil platform on the verge of being engulfed in flames.

On Sept. 10, 2010, when the Espoo, Finland-based company hired Elop, it was trading at 7.79 euros a share. Nokia fell 1 percent to 2.96 euros yesterday in Helsinki.

Photographer: Ramin Talaie/Bloomberg

Customers wait in line outside the Microsoft Corp. store during its grand opening in New York, on Oct. 25, 2012. Close

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Photographer: Ramin Talaie/Bloomberg

Customers wait in line outside the Microsoft Corp. store during its grand opening in New York, on Oct. 25, 2012.

Ballmer’s tenure at Microsoft has also been a money-loser for investors, with shares down 38 percent since he became CEO.

Doug Dawson, a spokesman with Nokia, didn’t respond immediately to messages seeking comment. Pete Wootton, a spokesman for Microsoft, declined to comment on the list of names and their odds.

Nokia Remake

Elop’s all-or-nothing remake of Nokia, using Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system, hasn’t yet created a significant challenger to Apple and Samsung Electronics Co., the dominant leaders in the smartphone market. Still, Elop can claim at least one recent victory: In the second quarter, on the strength of Nokia’s Lumia phones, Microsoft beat out BlackBerry Ltd. as the third-largest smartphone operating system, according to a Gartner report earlier this month.

Ladbrokes, based in Harrow, U.K., operates more than 2,700 betting shops in the U.K. and Europe in addition to its Internet business. In addition to sports bets, it lets customers gamble on offbeat topics. It offered 500-to-1 odds that the name of the royal baby, born last month to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, would be Elvis.

Microsoft Candidates

The betting house says Turner, Microsoft’s chief operating officer, is the second-favorite contender for the CEO job at 6-to-1, followed by Andreessen Horowitz board partner Steve Sinofsky and Larson-Green, at 8-to-1. Larson-Green replaced Sinofsky as the company’s Windows chief last year after Sinofsky clashed with executives including Ballmer, people familiar with the situation said at the time. She has since taken on responsibility for all hardware.

Tony Bates, Satya Nadella, Qi Lu and Terry Myerson are the leading internal choices to replace Ballmer, people with knowledge of the matter said. All four have odds between 10-to-1 and 14-to-1 on Ladbrokes.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings offers a 16-to-1 shot for gamblers betting on Microsoft’s expansion in entertainment. The software maker is converting its Xbox gaming console into a multipurpose Internet-connected device, which already lets users watch videos on their televisions from sites including Netflix.

Feeling a bit riskier? Facebook Inc. (FB) Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, T-Mobile USA Inc. CEO John Legere and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey are 40-to-1 long shots.

Then there’s Bill Gates, Microsoft’s co-founder and the world’s richest person -- and a 50-to-1 bet. Gates isn’t being considered for the job, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. Gates has a net worth of about $71 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

The only more unlikely candidate on the list is Cook, a 15-year Apple veteran handpicked by co-founder Steve Jobs to lead the company. While his 100-to-1 odds seem daunting, they’re slightly better than the chances of winning $4 with a Powerball lottery ticket. Hey, it could happen.

To contact the reporters on this story: Alex Sherman in New York at asherman6@bloomberg.net; Scott Moritz in New York at smoritz6@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nick Turner at nturner7@bloomberg.net

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