Microsoft has found its next CEO. Satya Nadella, the company’s 46-year-old enterprise and cloud chief, will succeed departing CEO Steve Ballmer, Microsoft confirmed on Tuesday. To learn more about Nadella, check out Microsoft's special page it created just for the announcement.
“Our industry does not respect tradition—it only respects innovation,” Nadella said. “The opportunity ahead for Microsoft is vast, but to seize it, we must move faster, focus and continue to transform. I see a big part of my job as accelerating our ability to bring innovative products to our customers more quickly.”
Bloomberg last Thursday was the first to report on the company’s plans to make Nadella the next CEO at Microsoft, citing inside sources with knowledge of the company's plans.
As the Bloomberg report also mentioned, Microsoft founder Bill Gates has been replaced as chairman of the executive board by John Thompson, the company’s lead independent director, who also headed up the search for Microsoft’s new CEO. Gates will continue to serve Microsoft as the company’s “Founder and Technology Advisor,” which means he will “devote more time to the company, supporting Nadella in shaping technology and product direction.”
“During this time of transformation, there is no better person to lead Microsoft than Satya Nadella,” Gates said in a Microsoft press release. “Satya is a proven leader with hard-core engineering skills, business vision and the ability to bring people together. His vision for how technology will be used and experienced around the world is exactly what Microsoft needs as the company enters its next chapter of expanded product innovation and growth.”
Nadella also sent an email to Microsoft employees on his first day as CEO. You can read the full letter here. Nadella also participated in a West Wing-style interview—his first as CEO—which is embedded here.
The search for a new CEO began on August 23, when Microsoft announced Steve Ballmer would retire within the next 12 months. A special committee, created by Microsoft's Board of Directors, was designed to direct the succession process. Chaired by Thompson, the board included Gates, Audit Committee chairman Chuck Noski and compensation committee chairman Steve Luczo. The committee worked with Chicago-based recruiting firm Heidrick & Struggles to help consider the best internal and external CEO candidates.
Ballmer, who was the first business manager hired by Gates in 1980, became the second CEO of Microsoft after Gates relinquished the position he held since 1975. After heading up several company divisions following Microsoft's incorporation in 1981, Ballmer eventually became Microsoft's president from July 1998 to February 2001.
As CEO, Ballmer helped boost company revenue by expanding the existing Windows and Office franchises, introducing divisions for data centers, devices and entertainment—particularly the lucrative Xbox brand. But in recent years, critics both in and out of Microsoft named Ballmer as a big factor behind a number of recent failures, including the company's botched launch of Windows 8 and its inability to innovate faster than its rivals at Apple Inc., even though tablets were reportedly on Microsoft's agenda more than a decade ago.
Former Microsoft VPs also blamed Ballmer for a few notable departures within the company, including Kevin Johnson, who ran Microsoft's online division but went to manage Juniper Networks; Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, who's now back with his former company after Microsoft acquired Nokia last year; and Ray Ozzie, who, although Bill Gates had personally christened him as Microsoft's next "big-picture" guy, decided to leave to start his own project—a mobile communications startup called Talko.
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