At least three of the top 20 investors in Microsoft want a turnaround expert to succeed Steve Ballmer as CEO and have urged the technology giant’s board to consider Ford Motor CEO Alan Mulally and Computer Sciences CEO Mike Lawrie for the job, sources familiar with the matter said.
The special committee of the board, which is conducting the CEO search, and its advisers have been meeting with shareholders after Ballmer’s surprise decision late last month to retire within a year, the sources said. It could name a CEO as soon as the end of this year, the sources said.
In one such meeting, Microsoft said it started with a list of about 40 people, including internal and external candidates, and has been narrowing it down, a source said.
It wasn’t clear whether the Microsoft board had reached out to any of the potential candidates suggested by investors or whether it was even considering them. The names of other candidates in the mix could not be learned.
Lawrie and Mulally could not be reached for comment. But last week, Mulally said he was “absolutely focused on serving our Ford”.
The search for a new CEO of the world’s largest software maker is one of the most closely watched developments in the technology sector this year.
Microsoft remains highly profitable, but it has struggled to gain traction in the mobile device business against rivals such as Apple and Google.
In July, the company unveiled a deep reorganisation to transform into a “devices and services” leader, but has so far failed to convince investors that its strategy will work. In a sign that shareholders had already lost confidence in Ballmer, Microsoft’s shares rose 7% after news of his planned retirement.
Last week, Microsoft said it would buy Nokia’s phone business and license its patents for 5.44 billion euros ($7.1 billion). Shares of the software company fell as much as 6% as investors protested the acquisition of an under-performing and marginalised unit that made a $3-billion operating loss in 2012.
The move also brings Stephen Elop, who ran Microsoft’s business software division before jumping ship in 2010, back to the company,