Microsoft CEO Speculation Continues As Company Remains Tight-Lipped

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One of the biggest, best paid and most high profile jobs in the world is currently up for grabs. But if you’re thinking of submitting your résumé, you might want to save the money on a stamp, as there’s already a pretty competitive shortlist drawn up.

Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) is searching for a new CEO, and given that this is one of the most high-profile positions in the entirety of business they are naturally pretty tight-lipped on whom this successor will be. With a dearth of information coming from the company themselves, the media has been left to speculate on whom might fill the position. The Times of India has named former Symantec CEO John Thompson as being a very likely candidate, but at the time of writing Microsoft’s lips are securely sealed.

Others named as possibilities for the top job are Ericsson AB Chief Executive Officer Hans Vestberg, Alan Mulally of Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) (not to be confused with the former cricketer!) and eBay Inc (NASDAQ:EBAY)’s John Donahoe.

Bill Gates interview

With the media searching for any insight into the identity of the next head of the software giant, the popular Charlie Rose Show on CBS featured an interview with the name most associated with Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), Bill Gates. But the founder of the company was rather reticent on the matter of the new CEO. Speculation has been so scattergun that Gates himself has even been named as a possible successor to the outgoing Steve Ballmer, but Gates has squashed these rumors pretty emphatically.

Gates simply informed Rose that discussing the identity of the new head of the company would not be a “fruitful speculation” and jested that Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)’s internal selection of a CEO represented a “mysterious process”. He even implied that the process is similar to Papal succession by informing Rose that he’d have to wait until “the smoke comes out”. Gates also suggested that a woman could be appointed to the position, but this would appear to be a slip of the tongue rather than anything of significance.

Crossroads for Microsoft

While the CEO position at Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) may realistically not quite have the influence of the Head of the Vatican, it nevertheless retains an incredible prominence in the world of computing. Arguably Microsoft has been left a little behind by the incredible power of Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), but they still form part of the big three companies in the world of computing. And this is a critical time for the world’s 41st biggest corporation – according to Forbes – with Windows 8 having bombed, the Xbox One well behind the PS4 in sales terms, the PC market diversifying rapidly and cloud computing set to become an incredibly important technology in the near future.

Thus, one can understand the company making a very assiduous search for the right person. But the seven month process could also be considered rather interminable. One executive recruiter has suggested that the amount of time being invested in locating a suitable replacement CEO is “absurd”, and that the successor to Ballmer should have been in place by now. The delays are simply “unfathomable”, according to this individual. While Businessweek quote Bill George, a Harvard Business School professor, who considers the process to have been “dragging out too long” and the public naming of possible candidates as being “unseemly”.

While I wouldn’t wish to question either of these viewpoints, made as they are emanating from people considerably more qualified than me to judge the process, it seems to me that this caution is completed motivated by the current crossroads that the company finds itself at. While Windows retains a huge share of the business and government sector IT market, which it seems inconceivable that it will lose in the foreseeable future, its domination of the domestic operating system market is being challenged. It’s not one of the big boys in the mobile phone market, it’s well behind, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) in the cloud, Sony Corporation (NYSE:SNE) (TYO:6758) is cleaning up in the next-gen console battle; these are testing times for the once unchallenged computing superpower.

It has also been mooted by Forbes that the company could buyout Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) in the near future, in a deal which would be worth around $53 billion, so the new CEO has a lot on his or her plate when they take up their new position.

Share price problems

However, this delay has not done the company much good in market terms. The share price of Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) has fallen by about 3 percent in the past week, and any further dithering will probably not find much favor with city traders.

As many as 100 names could be present on Microsoft’s shortlist for the position, and with the company scheduled to make its Q2 results public at some point on Thursday, amid disappointing PC sales results, the city may not be particularly enthusiastic about Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) stock with the CEO position still hanging in the air.

Jumping without thinking is never a wise move in business, and one can understand Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)’s determination to seek out the right person at this point in time. But the more one examines the situation, it becomes increasingly clear that the corporation would benefit in both practical and economic terms from ending this uncertainty as soon as possible.

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