Microsoft succession speculation focuses on internal candidates
By Bill Rigby and Christian Plumb
SEATTLE/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Speculation over Microsoft Corp's succession plans refocused on internal choices on Wednesday, a day after the leading outside candidate, Ford Motor Co CEO Alan Mulally, took himself off the list of potential CEOs at the world's largest software maker.
A source close to the company said no appointment was likely until the last week of January or in February. The source asked not be identified because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the process to select a successor to long-time CEO Steve Ballmer, who in August announced his plan to retire.
In late January, many Microsoft executives will be focused on the company's earnings, which are scheduled to be released on January 23. Also, chairman Bill Gates, a key member of the search committee, will be at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
For months, Microsoft watchers had pegged Mulally as the odds-on bet to succeed Ballmer as chief executive at the dominant producer of software for desktops and laptops, which has faltered in making the transition to the fast-growing mobile phone and tablet markets.
But Mulally formally pulled out of the running on Tuesday, telling the Associated Press he would remain at Ford through 2014.
It was unclear whether Mulally's withdrawal from consideration was his decision or Microsoft's. While the company's intentions remained a guessing game, internal candidates now seemed the obvious ones, especially in light of comments by Microsoft about the importance of tech know-how for the top job.
Mulally appeared to be the front runner in the latter part of last year and seemed to be interested in the job, but Microsoft never made him an offer, suggesting that the prevailing mood on the company's board was that he was not right for the job, two sources familiar with the process said.
The sources have also told Reuters that Microsoft is down to a "handful" of candidates, including insiders Satya Nadella, executive vice president of the Cloud & Enterprise group and Tony Bates, executive vice president of Business Development and Evangelism. Continued...