“Only our company and a handful of others are poised to write the future. We’re going to think big, we’re going to bet big.”
— Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO for the past 13 years, ebullient as ever while presiding over his last company meeting. Ballmer, who last month announced he would be stepping down as chief executive within a year, reportedly was — get this — quite emotional Thursday. At one point, tears streamed down his cheeks as he said goodbye to about 13,000 employees at Seattle’s KeyArena and about 25,000 more employees who watched a webcast, according to various reports. Over the years, the excitable Ballmer has had some memorable moments on stage, including his famous “developers” chant. The playlist at the concert-like gathering Thursday, where employees reportedly screamed “we love you” as Ballmer danced around the stage: “Can’t Hold Us” by Seattle’s Macklemore and Ryan Lewis; Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’, which was played at Microsoft’s first employee meeting; and “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” from “Dirty Dancing.”
Meanwhile, another well-known tech executive, former Symantec CEO John Thompson, is in the spotlight because as Microsoft’s lead independent director, he is heading the committee to find Ballmer’s successor. The Wall Street Journal reports that Thompson, who joined the Microsoft board last year, is viewed as diplomatic and an independent thinker. Thompson told the Journal that he gives Ballmer “a lot of credit” for stepping down upon realizing that a turnaround of the company would take several years. Thompson also said he would do “whatever it takes” to find the right CEO for the company — which needs a boost both in the tech world and on Wall Street — and that he is no “pawn” of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. Among those mentioned as possible CEO candidates are Ford’s Alan Mulally and Nokia’s Stephen Elop.
Photo: Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer gives the keynote address at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in 2012. (Associated Press archives)