Microsoft (MSFT) may be only days away from naming Satya Nadella, a 22-year company veteran and current Cloud and Enterprise boss, as its next chief executive to replace Steve Ballmer, according to a number of reports citing knowledgeable sources.
News outlets including Bloomberg, Re/Code, The Wall Street Journal and others are reporting that Nadella will ascend to Microsoft’s helm perhaps as early as next week, but still caution that a final decision has not been made, no candidates have been informed of their position in the race and the board has yet to vote. Still, with Microsoft turning in a strong FQ2 and chairman and co-founder Bill Gates back from traveling, the timing may be right to name Ballmer’s successor.
According to the reports, it’s not only the chief executive slot that Microsoft’s board is mulling, it’s also said to be struggling with chairman Gates' future role. One possibility the board is considering is naming Nadella as chief executive and Microsoft director John Thompson, the former IBM (IBM) and Symantec (SYMC) executive, as its chairman. But Thompson is said not to love the idea, reports said. Whether Microsoft’s board is willing to enact two dramatic changes at the top remains an open question at this point.
Nadella, widely regarded as a safe choice suitable to Microsoft’s conservative board, appears to have emerged from a small group of candidates—said to include incoming devices chief and former Nokia (NOK) chief Stephen Elop and strategy boss Tony Bates—perhaps helped along by the withdrawals of external suitors such as Ford chief Alan Mulally, Qualcomm (QCOM) chief-elect Steve Mollenkopf and Ericsson boss (ERIC) Hans Vestberg. While there's still a chance an outsider will emerge at the last second to claim the spot, those odds are getting longer every day.
Although Nadella has no experience running a company of Microsoft’s size, depth and breadth (who does, really?), he has taken Microsoft’s former Server (now Cloud and Enterprise) unit to a $20 billion business since 2011. Microsoft posted annual sales in FY 2013 of some $78 billion.
Should Microsoft’s board tap Nadella to run the company, it would signal its belief that the transition from Gates and Ballmer’s leadership—the only two chiefs the company has known—would best be handled by an insider well-versed not only in the vendor’s technology and strategy but also its rich history and culture.
In a December blog, Thompson reiterated Gates’ comments at the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting a month earlier that Microsoft’s new chief had to understand its complex business model and command the experience to lead the company’s technical organization and talent.