Three top Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) investors collectively owning over five percent of the company are reportedly pushing for removal of Bill Gates as chairman.
Bill Gates’ position is under threat as he currently owns 4.5 percent of the $277 billion company, though he still remains the single largest shareholder.
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Mounting worries at Microsoft
Nadia Damouni and Bill Rigby of Reuters point out this is probably the first time that major shareholders of Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) are aiming at Gates, who remains one of the most respected and influential figures in technology.
Reuters reporters point out the major investors are worried that Bill Gates spends most of his time on his Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and that he wields power out of proportion to his declining shareholding.
In August, amid pressure from activist fund ValueAct Capital Management, Microsoft’s Chief Executive Steve Ballmer announced his intention to quit within 12 months. The disasters that were Windows Vista and Windows 8 both happened under Steve Ballmer’s watch.
With Microsoft losing ground to Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) in a move towards mobile computing, shares of Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) have been largely static for a decade. The decline in personal computers and increasing popularity of smartphones and tablets are also adding to the woes of Microsoft.
Investors’ identities not known
Nadia Damouni and Bill Rigby of Reuters report that three of the top 20 investors in Microsoft are reportedly lobbying for an ouster of Bill Gates from his chairmanship role. Though these three investors collectively own over 5 percent of Microsoft’s stock, their identity has been kept anonymous.
Activist investor ValueAct’s stake in Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) has been recently estimated to be about 0.8 percent of Microsoft’s outstanding common stock.
After ValueAct Capital took a stake in Microsoft, several changes have been announced by Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), including the announcement regarding retirement of Steve Ballmer, and Microsoft’s intention to buy Nokia Corporation (NYSE:NOK) (BIT:NOK1V)(HEL:NOK1V)’s devices division. ValueAct received approval to go activist on the company not long after taking a stake.
Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) also entered into a cooperation agreement with ValueAct Capital and offered a board seat to the activist hedge fund.
Reuters reporters, however, point out there is no indication that Microsoft’s board would agree to the wishes of the top three investors.