Just a few days shy of the first anniversary of his announcement that he intended to resign as Microsoft’s Chief Executive Officer, the Ballmer era of Microsoft has come to a close.
Steve Ballmer announced his resignation from Microsoft’s board — a position he’s continue to hold since resigning as CEO — Tuesday citing his responsibilities as owner of the Los Angeles Clippers and other duties making him too busy to serve on the board.
“In the six months since leaving, I have become very busy. I see a combination of the Clippers, civic contribution, teaching and study taking a lot of time,” Ballmer wrote in the letter posted on Microsoft’s website. “Given my confidence and the multitude of new commitments I am taking on now, I think it would be impractical for me to continue to serve on the board, and it is best for me to move off. The fall will be hectic between teaching a new class and the start of the NBA season so my departure from the board is effective immediately.”
For Ballmer, severing this last remaining tie with Microsoft ends a 34-year career with the company (he was employee number 30), which he led as CEO from 2000 to February 2014. When he was installed as CEO, as Microsoft was facing the last of the turbulent United States vs. Microsoft era many wondered if he was up to the task of filling the shoes of Bill Gates. At first, every measurable metric proved that he was as revenue tripled under his leadership. But the fumbling of Microsoft’s transition into an era where Google, Apple and Facebook are the household names ended up defining Ballmer’s legacy for many and forcing him out of his job.
But in the end Ballmer spoke highly of Microsoft’s new leadership, sharing in the letter that he felt confident in the direction the company is taking under Satya Nadella.
“Microsoft has been my life’s work and I am proud of that and excited by what I see in front of the company and this leadership team,” Ballmer wrote. “There are challenges ahead but the opportunities are even larger. No company in the world has the mix of software skills, cloud skills, and hardware skills we have assembled. We draw talent as well as any company in the world. We have the profitability to invest in long-term opportunities and still deliver superior shorter term performance.”
Though Ballmer has cut all ties of employment to Microsoft, he remains the company’s largest shareholder owning 333.3 million shares of Microsoft, 3.48 million more than Gates, according to publicly available data. Ballmer mentioned in the letter that he can be counted on to keep “inputs and ideas flowing” which likely means that he’s preparing for a new role as activist shareholder.