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Is Ford CEO Alan Mulally the Prime Candidate To Replace Ballmer?

Ford CEO Alan Mulally is reportedly Microsoft's lead candidate to replace Steve Ballmer, who is set to retire within the next year.

Once viewed as a longshot, All Things D's Kara Swisher reported yesterday that Mulally has risen as the top contender to replace Ballmer, though it's not clear if he would take the job if offered. Mulally's work turning around Ford is not done and he promised the automaker he would stay on board through the end of 2014.

Swisher, who noted that Mulally is one of the few CEOs who has candidly responded to her e-mails -- and on-the-record -- said he has gone dark after sources told her he's a front-runner. Bloomberg TV suggested maybe the leak was aimed at putting pressure on Mulally to consider breaking his promise to Ford.

It's not surprising that Gates and Ballmer might want to see Mulally take the job. Ballmer himself has deep ties to Ford. His father Frederic was a manager there and Mulally reportedly advised Ballmer in advance of the company's latest restructuring. The new One Microsoft even shares a similar name to One Ford, the automaker's own mission statement to reinvent itself. Indeed Mulally won huge plaudits for saving the company without accepting a government bailout, as General Motors and Chrysler did back in 2009.

Until yesterday's report, many pundits were betting former Nokia CEO and former Microsoft president Stephen Elop was among the top contenders to take over the top spot at Microsoft. Swisher's report said he remains a top candidate, along with Tony Bates, the former CEO of Skype, which Microsoft acquired in 2011. Microsoft also reportedly has contacted another former key Microsoft exec Paul Maritz, the recent CEO of VMware, who is now running that company's spinoff Pivotal.

Ford COO Mark Fields today told reporters at a fundraising event in Detroit, that Mulally remains "focused" on the automaker's long-term turnaround.

Would you like to see Mulally take the reins of Microsoft or do you prefer the Board choose an insider or one who once held a leadership position to take the top slot?


Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 09/27/2013 at 12:49 PM


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