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Ghosts of Ballmer and Gates haunt Microsoft CEO job hunters

What do you mean, they'll still BOTH be on the board...

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Candidates for the next Microsoft CEO’s post are reportedly perturbed by the fact they could have Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates looking over their shoulder.

The Wall Street Journal reports “at least some” of the external executives “have expressed concerns about being hamstrung” if the duo continue on the board.

According to one unnamed source, those being interviewed who hail from outside Redmond “know that part of what they are negotiating for is the level of engagement” of Ballmer and Gates once they are named CEO.

Ballmer announced he was retiring as Microsoft CEO in August last year. Yet he won't be gone completely after that date, as Microsoft shareholders re-elected both Ballmer and Gates to the board in November for year-long terms.

Having Ballmer and Gates on board would be heavy baggage for any outsider CEO.

Never mind that a new CEO would be operating in the shadow of his predecessor; Ballmer is renowned for his powerful and rambunctious presence.

Further, the newcomer will be forced to work with the structure that Ballmer rolled out for Microsoft last summer as part of a massive change supposed to make the company function better as a devices and services operation.

Gates is, of course, Microsoft’s co-founder, and the presence of a founder on any company board is difficult as it’s the founder who employees will tend to look to for ultimate guidance and authority.

Gates, though, also enjoys a close personal relationship with Ballmer and holds a powerful position on the board. It was Gates who persuaded to the board to go with Ballmer’s plan to buy Skype.

Microsoft board member John Thompson blogged in December that the board would not make its choice of new CEO until early in 2014.

More than 100 possible candidates were identified by the board for the CEO job: that number has since been narrowed to fewer than 20.

Among those reported to be in hot contention for the seat is Ford Motor Company's CEO, Alan Mulally. His chances are not reported to have faded: meanwhile, Qualcomm chief operating officer Steven Mollenkopf is now reported to have been added to the list. ®

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