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Should Bill Gates Step Down as Microsoft's Chairman?

Three of Microsoft's top-20 investors this week said the unthinkable: The time has come for fo Bill Gates to step down as chairman. I say "unthinkable" tongue-in-cheek as many with various motives have undoubtedly thought Gates should go. But it appears this may be the first time investors made a concerted effort to advance the idea.

The three mysterious investors told Reuters they feel Gates holds too much power considering he continues to sell off shares, holding only 4.5 percent of the company's outstanding shares today -- a figure that will give him no stake by 2018 if he continues to sell them off at the pace he has indicated he will.

The investors, who were not identified, reportedly believe Gates' presence on the board interferes with the creation and adoption of new strategies and would hold back a new CEO's ability to make changes. They see Gates participation on the special committee to find Ballmer's successor as troublesome, according to the report.

Gates' departure as chairman may be inevitable in the coming years, and while anything could happen, it doesn't seem likely the board will strip the founder from having a say in who becomes Microsoft's next CEO. But he won't be able to rubber-stamp anyone if lead independent director John Thompson, sticks to his word to take a broader view.

"I have enormous respect for Bill," Thompson told The Wall Street Journal last week. "But I didn't accept the role on the board or the role as the lead independent director to be Bill's pawn." Thompson, the onetime CEO of Symantec and longtime IBM executive is said to have no problem standing up to Gates.

Do you think Gates should remain Microsoft's chairman and remain on the committee considering Ballmer's successor?

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 10/04/2013 at 1:10 PM


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