Top Microsoft Shareholders Reportedly Want Bill Gates to Step Down as Chairman

| Analysis

Microsoft Chairman Bill GatesBill Gates

Three of Microsoft's top shareholders—representing some 5 percent of the company's outstanding shares—want company cofounder Bill Gates to step down as chairman. In an exclusive report, Reuters said that Mr. Gates's presence at the head of Big Redmond's board will inhibit the adoption of new strategies and products and limit the power of the company's next CEO to make changes.

The Man, the Myth, the Legend

Bill Gates is enormously well respected by most of the world. Today he is the head of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a US$38 billion charity that is tackling some of the world's biggest problems and making headway against several of them.

He earned a vast personal fortune founding and leading Microsoft into a corporate hegemony that utterly controlled the PC industry for decades. Under his stewardship, Microsoft ruthlessly went after competitors using a variety of brilliant—if sometimes illegal—methods to turn Windows and Office into cash cows that were the envy of the world...

...until Apple came and upset the apple cart in mobile.

He stepped down from the CEO spot at Microsoft in 2000 and handed the reins of the company to marketing man Steve Ballmer. For the last 10 years, Microsoft's stock has stood at a virtual standstill as Mr. Ballmer pursued strategies to maximize Windows and Office revenues, but failed to make an impact in any new markets (save for console gaming, where Microsoft is indeed a powerhouse).

Trouble in Paradise Redmond

Microsoft has had a series of whiffs in the mobile market, in particular—markets that Microsoft pioneered but never made mainstream, as their Windows-branded smartphones and Windows-based tablets have failed to catch on. Apple and Google/Samsung have taken Microsoft behind the bleachers, beaten it up, taken its lunch money, stepped on its lunch, and left it hanging by a corporate wedgy that's going to require a visit to a doctor.

All the while, Mr. Gates stood as Chairman of the company, effectively putting a stamp of approval on Mr. Ballmer's actions. Steve Ballmer himself announced in September that he was stepping down as CEO within 12 months, and that's apparently when the above-mentioned, but unnamed shareholders began thinking about a Microsoft without its founder, too.

Corporate Politics

The Reuters story said that it's only three of the top 20 investors who are cranky. They represent 5 percent of Microsoft's shares. That's nowhere near enough to force a change—Bill Gates himself owns 4.5 percent of the company—but it's interesting that a man whose record has largely been unassailable is getting any pressure to step down from the company he founded—a company that is still printing money.

According to the unnamed sources, the investors' concern is that Mr. Gates is selling his stock at a long-known and publicly announced clip that will see him without a stake in the company by 2018. He's selling 80 million shares per year. As such, they believe his power and influence is disproportionate to his holdings, especially considering how much time he spends on his true passion, the (frankly awesome) Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

They also believe he could be an impediment to Microsoft changing directions. That's a justifiable concern. Mr. Gates has long resisted any and all changes that didn't emphasize Windows, and that mindset has played a major role in the Surface debacle and Windows Phone being a non-player in the smartphone industry.

Will Mr. Gates be forced out? Not a chance. Momentum, tradition, and legacy are all on his side. Might the concerns of these investors yield some much-needed change at Microsoft? Maybe.

I certainly hope so. A healthy and vibrant Microsoft innovating and developing new technologies would be a great thing for shareholders (of which I am not one), but it would be even better for technology consumers.

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Comments

Bob Black

That’s ok… him and Timmy can go camping together…

furbies

<quote>
...have taken Microsoft behind the bleachers, beaten it up, taken its lunch money, stepped on its lunch, and left it hanging by a corporate wedgy that’s going to require a visit to a doctor.
</quote>

Nearly made me snort my coffee over my keyboard.

Miguel Rodriguez Sanchez

Gates also has a large amount of shares in Monsanto, which makes him an utter scum bag who also makes rubbish software

Ernie Mink

Oh really Miguel? Then why do they sell to millions upon millions of happy consumers and businesses? I do not believe Bill stole from Steve. Windows 1.0 was entirely different. I compared the Macintosh to when Windows came out. No way Bill stole anything, even borrowed. I used the Macs and Apple computers when they even had the green screen. I was not impressed with ANYTHING Apple did. I really did try their products and tested them extensively. And many are getting rid of the iPods and iPhones for the Windows 8 phones to. I even still use the Microsoft Zune 120 with the Zune software. Ten dollars a month for unlimited music. And if I ever buy a song I go to Amazon (which I rarely need to since the Xbox Music/Zune Marketplace has about every song I could ever want.) I do not use Google, Mozilla or Redhat Linux stuff either. Microsoft just does everything better. That is why they are in more places than anything else. Bill Gates is not perfect, just like you and I are not perfect. I do not agree with Monsanto or most vaccines, but I cannot blame someone for trying to make the world a better place either, even if there is more stuff that needs to be dealt with on vaccines and Monsanto.  Bill Gates is just way smarter than Steve Jobs ever was in business, software and making everything work together. I build Windows PC’s. You cannot do that with Apple.  And Steve was stubborn and bullheaded to. He refused to listen to good advice about getting off the all fruit diet, which caused him cancer. You need vegetables and clean meat in your diet to, especially for vitamins, minerals and protein. This is what caused his cancer. And Steve Jobs was known to be a very abusive and selfish person. I know people who worked for him who can attest to that. He never truly innovated anything, but Microsoft did many times with the first touchscreen operating system, Windows 8, soon to be 8.1. Internet Explorer 10 beat all other browsers for the internet and fighting malware. The movie and the interviews only proved how over-driven, pig-headed and disillusioned Steve Jobs was. So I am sorry, I cannot support Apple ever. I will not be responding to this, but I needed to set the record straight.

Ernie Mink

And Apple NEVER came out with the first graphical color user interface. Microsoft did. There was no comparison. It is when Windows 3.1 was released that we were really sold and never looked back.

Terrin

Ernie, most of your two comments are lacking a founding in fact, but besides that I am confused by most of your inaccurate rant. Miguel’s grievance is with Gate’s holding in Monsanto, a company which makes genetically modified seeds that do not reproduce on their own and need its Round Up pesticides to grow. It spends a lot of money suing farmers who use regular seeds, and lobbies Congress to make sure genetically modified labels are not put on foods informing consumers.

As far as Miquel’s comment about rubbish software goes, he didn’t even mention Apple so I am unsure why you are electing to provide us a false Microsoft verse Apple history lesson.

Further, it seems pretty low class to attack a dead man, and state you are not going to respond to your own long winded rant to someone’s else’s post.

Intruder

That’s not setting the record straight. That’s setting the record into a completely alternate reality.

Lee Dronick

I don’t know if the story is true ir not and I did not see any proof in the Reuter’s story. It may very well be, but it is not yet any of my business. I say yet because it may be time for me to take a chance and buy some shares MSFT. They may not be doing well right now, but that could improve with improvements in leadership. True, they could get worse, but I bought AAPL at $25 and CudaBoy says that he bought at $15.

geoduck

And I coulda bought AAPL at $15.
I Shoulda bought it at $15
My wife told me to buy it at $15
She even set aside $1500 for me to buy AAPL at $15

I…um…didn’t buy it at $15

mrmwebmax

+

geoduck, I’m sure you speak for countless thousands of people (myself included). But honestly, when Apple and its stock price hit rock bottom, I never thought they’d recover, let alone go on to be the most valuable company in the world. Who could have possibly seen that? Who, in 1997 when Steve Jobs came back, could have remotely predicted the iPod, iPhone, and iPad?

geoduck

mrmwebmax
To hear her tell it, my wife.

rolleyes

wab95

I…um…didn’t buy it at $15

Takes a brave soul to admit that, geoduck. Hopefully your marriage survived your miscalculation.

I bought at above $15 but below $100. Best investment decision I ever made.

As for Gates, I believe that he and Melinda will be remembered for their charitable work, particularly in the field of international health, and only parenthetically for his founding MS, the means by which he acquired the ability to drive the international public health agenda. In the larger sweep of history and impact on humanity, the charitable work has, and is, proving vital. MS, important yes, vital no. There are other options. At this time, one cannot say that for the investment into public health infrastructure and vaccine introduction.

wab95

Miguel:

I very respectfully suggest (off-topic for a computer tech website) that investment and research into GM foods is, as are most things aimed at resource distribution to the masses of humanity that are under-served, a complex topic, and not one that can be suitably and adequately addressed here. As are most areas of active research, it is not composed of either angels or demons, but people trying to push the boundaries of the possible in order to extend availability and options into the imminent future.

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