Sept. 10 - Top investors want Ford's Alan Mulally and Computer Science's Mike Lawrie added to the list of candidates for the job of next Microsoft CEO, sources tell Reuters exclusively. Fred Katayama reports.
Leading investors say Microsoft needs a turnaround artist at the helm, and they're urging that Ford CEO Alan Mulally and Computer Sciences CEO Mike Lawrie be put on the short list. Sources tell Reuters they're the choice of at least three of Microsoft's top 20 investors. Steve Ballmer plans to step down as CEO of the software giant within a year. His move to buy Nokia's phone business and have its ex-CEO Stephen Elop come back to Microsoft as part of that deal, sparked speculation that Elop would succeed him. But with Microsoft struggling to compete against the likes of Apple and Google, top investors are looking for someone who can engineer a big reversal. Mulally would be a true outsider, given his background at industrial giants Ford and Boeing. But Ballmer, whose dad worked at Ford, once praised Mulally in Time magazine as someone who "smartly and sensitively made the transition from airplanes to cars, inspiring confidence and trust in employees, suppliers, shareholders and customers." Lawrie is trying to reverse the fortunes of Computer Sciences after revitalizing British software firm Misys. Another thing he has going for him: he worked as a general partner at activist investor ValueAct Capital, a Microsoft shareholder that has worked to oust Ballmer. Last week, veteran Microsoft watcher Rick Sherlund of Nomura wrote, "The ValueAct preference might be for someone like Mike Lawrie ... We mention this because we think ValueAct has some evidence of a positive track record in this space in putting in effective candidates." Sources say Microsoft could name a new CEO as soon as the end of this year.