Microsoft CEO Search Is Narrowing

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Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) is about to potentially be a far different company. Steve Ballmer’s resignation, retirement, or force-out, was sooner than some investors were expecting. Now we have a Bloomberg report that the board of directors is likely to narrow down the new CEO candidate in a board meeting on Monday, November 18. What is interesting is that we have heard and read this same notion of the candidate pool shrinking elsewhere, and not even this week.

Everyone is going to just have to deal with a new Microsoft, regardless of who becomes CEO. This is no longer simply a Microsoft under Bill Gates, and now longer a Microsoft under the Gates and Ballmer duo. Microsoft has enough businesses now that a new CEO may even decide to break the businesses up.

Alan Mulally of Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) keeps coming up as a potential replacement. This would be bad for Ford, although our take is that Ford already has its full team in place now. Another question is whether or not his age would be a factor. We already pointed out how there is literally no young blood on the Microsoft board of directors. A guy in his late-60s who has been an industrial CEO might not be the right fit at a struggling software and technology company even if he done incredibly well elsewhere.

Stephen Elop is still in the hunt apparently, and he will be rejoining Microsoft from Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) when the acquisition of the handset division closes. We have a hard time knowing if it is worth the risk of taking on a handset chief as the company’s full CEO. Nokia’s reputation has diminished handily, and the risk is that if a CEO replacement does not work out then it would look like a bonehead move that could have been avoided.

Internal candidates running Microsoft businesses already are also up for consideration. We have seen several names, but it almost seemed as if the names were grabbed from the list of division heads.

A new CEO candidate seems to be on the way sooner rather than later. We recently saw a key analyst report to get Microsoft back to $45 or even $50 and that was in a post-Ballmer world. With the stock at 437.81 and a recent peak above $38.00, it is not as impossible to imagine as you might think.

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