Steve Ballmer Says He Owns 4% Stake in Twitter

Steve Ballmer Says He Owns 4% Stake in Twitter
  • Investment gives him bigger holding than CEO Jack Dorsey
  • Former Microsoft chief joins Saudi prince as Twitter investors

Former Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer has acquired a 4 percent stake in Twitter Inc., giving him a bigger holding than the social-media company’s new CEO, Jack Dorsey.

“Glad I bought 4% past few months,” the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team tweeted Friday. He praised Dorsey, who was appointed last week, for making the company “leaner, more focused.”

Twitter is working to improve its product to attract and keep more users, and Ballmer praised the social-media company’s new Moments product, which helps people follow major events. The San Francisco-based company this week said it would cut 8 percent of its global workforce to improve focus.

Ballmer could be interested in a seat on Twitter’s board, said James Cakmak, an analyst at Monness Crespi Hardt & Co. Such an appointment would give Twitter connections and experience in professional sports--an important business for the social-media company as it works to be a valued source of information about major events, he said.

Twitter shares rose 4.9 percent to $31.15 at the close in New York, their highest level since July 30.

The investment, valued at about $840 million based on Friday’s closing stock price, would put Ballmer among Twitter’s biggest individual shareholders. Companies aren’t required to list outside individual investors whose holdings are less than 5 percent. Twitter co-founder Ev Williams has a 6.8 percent holding and Dorsey has 3 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal last week disclosed that he had more than a 5 percent holding.

‘Smart Guy’

Ballmer’s 4 percent holding in Microsoft is the only other stake he has disclosed in a public company. Ballmer, who has a net worth of $21.4 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, declined to comment further about the Twitter investment.

“He’s a brilliant man, he’s clearly a very smart guy, but he is the guy who thought the iPhone was a joke. He is the guy who bought Nokia” said Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Securities Inc. “It doesn’t make me like Twitter any more or less.” Pachter has a neutral rating for Twitter’s stock and a price target of $30 a share.

In August 2013, Ballmer said he would retire from Microsoft, amid disagreements with Microsoft’s board over strategy, a plan to acquire Nokia Oyj’s handset unit and pressure from an activist investor.

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