After 33 years with Microsoft, CEO Steve Ballmer announced his retirement today. He will step down within 12 months, after his successor is chosen.
In a letter to employees
, Ballmer said the reason for his decision is that the company needs a CEO who can stay “longer term” while it transforms into “a devices and services company.”
“There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time,” Ballmer wrote.
Further down in the letter, he added:
This is an emotional and difficult thing for me to do. I take this step in the best interests of the company I love; it is the thing outside of my family and closest friends that matters to me most.
The announcement came as a surprise to many, and has generated quite a range of reactions.
Tripp Frohlichstein of Media Masters Training says sending the announcement as a direct communication from Ballmer was a good move on MIcrosoft’s part, though he has some hesitation about the reasons given for Ballmer’s planned departure.
“After all, Ballmer is 57 and easily could have continued for several more years as the company "transitioned" into a new focus,” he says.
Norman Young of Morningstar
wrote that the statement’s wording that Ballmer’s “original thoughts on timing would have had [his] retirement happen in the middle of [the] company's transformation to a devices and services company” could indicate the CEO was forced out early.
Frolichstein adds that the email itself is a little to self-focused.
“It was about what a great company Microsoft is and how it has grown,” he says. “Ballmer, knowing the email would be public, should have combined his attention to the success of the company with the reasoning behind it; what they have done to help customers be more successful.”
Ballmer’s predecessor Bill Gates, who is still Microsoft’s chairman, told Forbes
that Microsoft is “fortunate to have Steve in his role until the new CEO assumes these duties.” Gates will sit on the board search committee tasked with finding Ballmer’s replacement.
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At least one arbiter of CEO communications gave Ballmer’s announcement pretty good marks Friday, though Ballmer himself may not view it as a good sign. Microsoft’s stock rose by $2.42 per share, or about 8 percent.