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Microsoft's Rumored CEO Candidate Short List

According to a Reuters report, Microsoft has reportedly narrowed its shortlist to at least three internal candidates and five external candidates.

Among those still in the running to replace Ballmer are Ford CEO Alan Mulally, former Nokia Chief Stephen Elop and two internal candidates -- Satya Nadella, executive VP for the Cloud and Enterprise Group and Tony Bates, the former CEO of Skype who is now executive VP for the Business Development and Evangelism group. The remaining candidates weren't noted, though the report pointed to Computer Sciences Corp. CEO Mike Lawrie as one on Wall Street's desired list.

The search could still take several months, according to the Reuters report, which cited unidentified sources familiar with the matter. Short of luring back Microsoft exec Paul Maritz, who ran VMware before settling into his current role as CEO of spinoff Pivotal, Nomura Securities Analyst Rick Sherlund today said he believes it will be Mulally and thinks he will be named next month. Mulally's name as a preferred candidate surfaced in late September.

Sherlund believes Ballmer will make a quick exit and the company will purchase back his shares, valued at $12 billion. Sherlund said Ballmer will opt to exit the board because he "doesn't want to be second-guessed."

To compensate for Mulally's lack of experience running a tech company, Sherlund believes founder and Chairman Bill Gates will contribute in terms of directing product strategy. "Bill Gates is going to have to roll up his sleeves to compliment Mulally," Sherlund told CNBC's Jim Kramer.

A new CEO would be wise to sell or spin off Microsoft's Bing and Xbox businesses, which are huge drains on profits, Sherlund said. Added Kramer, the new CEO will have to "blow the company up."

I'm still in the camp that Gates isn't going to come back even in the roll Sherlund is predicting. As for speculation that Ballmer may walk away from the board and cash out his shares, that's his choice and I don't see it having a major impact on Microsoft's future direction either way. Despite the latest buzz, there are still many balls in the air. But I do get the sense that the news is going to come sooner than later.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 11/06/2013 at 2:26 PM


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