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Down to 2: Mulally and Nadella Reportedly Top Microsoft CEO Contenders

Microsoft's CEO search committee reportedly is honing in on Alan Mulally and Satya Nadella as the top two candidates to succeed Steve Ballmer.

A report by Bloomberg  on Thursday said the committee is leaning toward Mulally, now CEO of Ford, and Nadella, who oversees Microsoft's enterprise and cloud business and is well respected within the company. Sources told Bloomberg that internal candidate Tony Bates and Nokia former CEO Stephen Elop "remain in the mix," though are less likely.

The thinking of the committee remains "fluid," according to the report, meaning any candidate could still float to the top. The committee has aimed to wind down its search by year's end but the process could go into next year, according to the report.

Based on various reports over the past several months, Mulally appears to remain the favorite because of the way he parachuted into Ford last decade and brought it back from the brink, despite his newcomer status to the auto industry (he was previously CEO of Boeing where he rose through the ranks). As I noted back in September, Mulally has already advised outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer and helped him architect the One Microsoft strategy modeled in part after One Ford.

Critics argue just because he was able to turn Ford around doesn't mean he can do the same for Microsoft. Many take issue with Mulally's age (68) as well. But perhaps the committee is considering a scenario where Microsoft brings Mulally in for a few years, while naming Nadella president and grooming him as heir-apparent?

The other issue is it is not clear if Mulally wants to, or can, leave Ford in the midst of its own transition. Because Mulally hasn't emphatically ruled out heading to Microsoft, he remains in the mix. But if he does shut the door on leaving Ford, then perhaps Nadella will get the nod?

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 12/02/2013 at 2:55 PM


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