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'Conflict of interest' for John Thompson, say watchdogs

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Proxy advisory firm Glass Lewis has told Microsoft shareholders to vote against the re-election of independent director John Thompson, who is leading the search for a new chief exec.

In a research note seen by Reuters, the firm said that Thompson potentially had a conflict of interest because he's the CEO of Virtual Instruments, a cloud company that sells licenses and devices to Redmond.

Thompson, who used to work at IBM, got a seat on the board in February 2012 and was elected by shareholders at the annual general meeting later that year. This year's AGM is set for November 19.

Glass Lewis is one of two companies that give advice to shareholders based on corporate governance guidelines, but its recommendations don't have to be taken up by investors. The firm is recommending that investors keep the other eight directors, including current chief Steve Ballmer and chairman Bill Gates.

Other investors have suggested that with Ballmer on his way out, it might be time for Gates to step down from the chair to make room for some big changes at Microsoft that can help it compete with the likes of Google and Apple. ®

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