Microsoft shareholders are in a feeding frenzy after CEO Steve Ballmer announced he was quitting and they now want the head of Bill Gates.
It appears that getting rid of Ballmer was not enough and they want to purge Microsoft of its past leadership.
Reuters said that three of the top 20 investors in Microsoft are lobbying the board to press for Gates to step down as chairman of the software company he co-founded 38 years ago.
This is the first time that major shareholders are taking aim at Gates, who has never been questioned until now.
There is probably not a bat’s chance in hell of them succeeding. The three investors collectively hold about five percent of the company’s stock. This is slightly more than Gates himself holds so this would be a problem if only he and they were the only people voting.
Apparently the three think that Gates blocks the adoption of new strategies and would limit the ability of a new chief executive to make substantial changes. They are worried about Gates’ role on the special committee searching for Ballmer’s successor.
They are also worried that Gates has too much power over the company.
Gates once owned 49 percent of Microsoft before it went public in 1986. He is selling 80 million Microsoft shares a year under a pre-set plan, which if continued would leave him with no financial stake in the company by 2018.
But the head-hunting shareholders clearly smell blood after Ballmer said he would retire within 12 months, amid pressure from activist fund manager ValueAct Capital Management.
There is also some support from other shareholders for the move, although there are probably more that want Gates to stay.
When Gates was in charge, Microsoft had a visionary and now it doesn’t, one shareholder told Reuters. Shares of Microsoft have been static for a decade.
The feeling is that Gates was more effective as chief executive than as chairman.