Steve Ballmer resigned from Microsoft Corp.’s board, eight months after his departure as chief executive officer, ending more than three decades of direct involvement in the world’s largest software maker.
Ballmer, 58, remains Microsoft’s top individual shareholder. He had initially remained as a director after handing the top job over to one of his deputies, Satya Nadella, in February. Ballmer recently bought the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion and appeared in front of the team and fans this week, vowing to lift the team to “higher heights” and promising not to micromanage.
The former CEO’s departure ends a 34-year association with Microsoft, which he led as CEO from 2000 to February 2014. Revenue tripled under Ballmer’s tenure, even as the Redmond, Washington-based company struggled to compete with Apple Inc. and Google Inc. in areas such as mobile phones, tablet computers and Internet search.
“I want to be a great shareholder and I want to pay appropriate attention to my shares but between teaching classes and my new responsibilities at the Clippers and my civic duties, it’s a lot,” Ballmer said in an interview yesterday. “I love Microsoft.”
Ballmer’s exit is the latest change to Microsoft’s board. Last month, Microsoft named longtime wireless executive John Stanton to the board. In March, director Steve Luczo stepped down and in February, co-founder Bill Gates stepped aside as chairman to be replaced by lead independent director John Thompson. The board also added activist investor Mason Morfit of ValueAct Holdings LP to its ranks this year.
Employee No. 30
In a letter to Nadella that was posted on Microsoft’s website yesterday, Ballmer wrote that he would “support and encourage boldness by management in my role as a shareholder in any way I can.”
Nadella thanked Ballmer for his years at the company, saying that the former CEO created an “incredible foundation that we continue to build on.”
Brendan Barnicle, an analyst at Pacific Crest Securities LLC, said Ballmer’s exit from the board creates room for Nadella to put more of his stamp on Microsoft.
“I think he recognizes that it’s very hard for a new CEO to take the reins and have full authority with the old CEO on the board,” Barnicle said in an interview.
Ballmer joined Microsoft as employee No. 30 in 1980 after Gates persuaded him to drop out of Stanford University’s business school. He rose to the rank of president and then took over for Gates as CEO in 2000.
Ballmer became the company’s biggest individual shareholder in May after Gates sold 4.6 million shares of Microsoft. Ballmer owns 333.3 million shares of Microsoft, 3.48 million more than Gates, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Ballmer has collected about $3.4 billion selling shares since the company’s 1986 initial public offering, and has a net worth of $20.8 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Ballmer paid about four times what anyone’s ever paid for an NBA team when he bought the Clippers. His chance came when fans and the NBA soured on previous owner Donald Sterling, who was banned for life and fined $2.5 million after a tape of him making racially derogatory comments was made public. Sterling’s wife, Shelly Sterling, went to court to compel him to sell the franchise he purchased in 1981 for $12.5 million, and Ballmer’s acquisition became official last week.