Steve Ballmer's stepping down from his role of chief executive at Microsoft appears to have given investors an appetite for fresh blood, with anonymous sources suggesting that company co-founder Bill Gates could be the next to go.
Gates founded the company Micro-Soft, as it was then styled, in 1975 after quitting Harvard University to develop an operating system for the MITS Altair 8800. The success of the company was assured when Microsoft became the middle-man in a deal that would see the Seattle Computer Products' QDOS operating system sold on every IBM personal computer.
Although Gates remains the chair of Microsoft, after relinquishing the chief executive role to Ballmer in 2000, he gave up his control over day-to-day operations in 2008 in order to concentrate on his philanthropic projects. As the largest single shareholder, at 4.5 per cent, he's still very much a figurehead for the company however - but a minority of investors are looking for that to change.
According to anonymous sources 'familiar with the matter
' speaking to newswire service Reuters
, three of the company's top 20 investors have issued a request to the board for Gates to step down as the company's chair. While a clear minority, the investors collectively control more than five per cent of the company's stock giving them considerable clout with the board.
No reason for the request, on which Microsoft itself has refused to comment, was given, beyond a single source telling the service that it was 'felt [Gates] was more effective as chief executive than as chairman.
Currently, Microsoft is on the hunt for a new chief executive to replace Ballmer, but it seems unlikely that the semi-retired Gates, aged 57, will be eager to return to the role.