Not long after Microsoft reports some very strong quarterly earnings, the always-controversial CEO Steve Ballmer has announced the sell-off of some $1.3 billion worth of shares, with more to come by year's end. Ballmer says it's just his way of diversifying his investment portfolio, not a disturbing lack of faith in his company. But his move has still got the attention of industry-watchers, especially as Microsoft strives to transition to the cloud.
First, thanks to the BBC for the tip-off. That article says that even though he just sold 49.3 million Microsoft shares (at between $26 and $28 per), SEC filings show he still owns 359 million shares worth about $9.6 billion at the closing bell on Monday.
Ballmer's statement on the matter, as published on Microsoft's website, says that he plans on selling 75 million shares by year's end. The statement also reaffirms his support for Microsoft and his belief in future success.
I think Ballmer did everything right with this deal -- breaking the news himself will keep conspiracy theory and wild speculation to a minimum. High-tech CEOs make similar moves all the time.
Cash and the CloudBut for conspiracy theorists, it's worrisome when the brains (or at least the heart) of the largest software company in the IT world makes this kind of move. Moreover, Ballmer is selling shares during a major inflection point at Microsoft. The company's "All In" cloud strategy now includes everything from Windows 7 PC to Windows Phone 7 television ads that promote cloud integration. Moreover, Microsoft is transitioning from Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) to Office 365 sometime in early 2011.
Big transitions. So big stock sales from Ballmer warrant news coverage. But let's not overstate the situation. He still owns nearly 360 million shares of Microsoft...
Additional insights from Joe Panettieri. Sign up for MSPmentor’s Weekly Enewsletter, Webcasts and Resource Center. Follow us via RSS, Facebook, Identi.ca and Twitter. Check out more MSP voices at www.MSPtweet.com. Read our editorial disclosure here.