REDMOND, Wash. — Microsoft Corp. announced Friday morning that Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer has decided to retire as CEO within the next 12 months, once he has chosen his successor.
Ballmer will continue as the CEO as he and a special committee work to find his replacement, Microsoft announced in a press release early Friday. The special committee, appointed by the company’s board of directors, will largely direct the transition in leadership. The committee will be led by John Thompson, the board’s lead independent director, and includes Bill Gates and others.
The special committee is working with an executive recruiting firm to consider external and internal candidates. In the meantime, Ballmer said he will do his best to bring high-quality products and services to the consumer as he transitions out of leadership.
“There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time,” Ballmer said in a release. “My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our company’s transformation to a devices and services company. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction.”
Ballmer informed Microsoft employees of his departure via email Friday morning. He called this an “important” time for the company, and is proud of what he has achieved in his time at the helm.
“This is an emotional and difficult thing for me to do,” Ballmer said in his email. I take this step in the best interests of the company I love; it is the ting outside of my family and closest friends that matters to me most.”
Ballmer joined Microsoft in 1980 and was named CEO of Microsoft in 2000. Microsoft was founded in 1975 by Bill Gates, and has become one of the world’s leaders in software design, but lately has come under fire for struggling to keep up with diminishing PC sales and a shift to tablets and smartphones.
Microsoft’s stock jumped more than 7 percent to above 34 points in the moments following the news.
Here is the full text of Ballmer’s email to Microsoft employees:
“I am writing to let you know that I will retire as CEO of Microsoft within the next 12 months, after a successor is chosen. There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time. My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our transformation to a devices and services company focused on empowering customers in the activities they value most. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction. You can read the press release on Microsoft News Center.
This is a time of important transformation for Microsoft. Our new Senior Leadership team is amazing. The strategy we have generated is first class. Our new organization, which is centered on functions and engineering areas, is right for the opportunities and challenges ahead.
Microsoft is an amazing place. I love this company. I love the way we helped invent and popularize computing and the PC. I love the bigness and boldness of our bets. I love our people and their talent and our willingness to accept and embrace their range of capabilities, including their quirks. I love the way we embrace and work with other companies to change the world and succeed together. I love the breadth and diversity of our customers, from consumer to enterprise, across industries, countries, and people of all backgrounds and age groups.
I am proud of what we have achieved. We have grown from $7.5 million to nearly $78 billion since I joined Microsoft, and we have grown from employing just over 30 people to almost 100,000. I feel good about playing a role in that success and having committed 100 percent emotionally all the way. We have more than 1 billion users and earn a great profit for our shareholders. We have delivered more profit and cash return to shareholders than virtually any other company in history.
I am excited by our mission of empowering the world and believe in our future success. I cherish my Microsoft ownership, and look forward to continuing as one of Microsoft’s largest owners.
This is an emotional and difficult thing for me to do. I take this step in the best interests of the company I love; it is the thing outside of my family and closest friends that matters to me most.
Microsoft has all its best days ahead. Know you are part of the best team in the industry and have the right technology assets. We cannot and will not miss a beat in these transitions. I am focused and driving hard and know I can count on all of you to do the same. Let’s do ourselves proud.”
Ballmer at WE Day