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Microsoft Investors Call For Bill Gates To Step Down As Chairman 218

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the pour-some-gasoline-on-it dept.
rjmarvin writes "Now that Ballmer is on his way out, flak for Microsoft's middling stock prices and lagging mobile innovation is starting to land on Bill Gates himself. Three of the company's top 20 investors are lobbying the Board of Directors, pressing Gates to step down as chairman. The stockholders believe his presence would handcuff the next CEO's ability to re-make the company with new strategies and sweeping changes. They also think Gates wields a disproportionate amount of power relative to his financial stake and day-to-day activity within the company. No word yet from Gates or the board on this internal strife."
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Microsoft Investors Call For Bill Gates To Step Down As Chairman

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  • by themushroom (197365) on Wednesday October 02, 2013 @11:15AM (#45015123) Homepage

    "Yeah, about that... Go fuck yourself. Now if you don't mind, I have to go save thousands of African kids from getting malaria. Back at 3pm"

    • Having read all of their correspondence beforehand, Gates was always one step ahead of the plotters.

      • by Mabhatter (126906) on Wednesday October 02, 2013 @11:53AM (#45015675)

        It's not about plotters, he doesn't HOLD A STAKE in the company that deserves as much power as he holds. They are correct to replace Gates before even looking at Balmer's replacement as Gates hasn't held Balmer's feet to the fire nearly hard enough in the last 7-10 years.

        • He holds billions of stakes.

        • by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday October 02, 2013 @12:09PM (#45015915) Homepage

          Exactly. Bill owns about 4.5% of the stock ... the people trying to oust him control about 5%.

          Bill Gates is essentially a minority shareholder, but exercises clout like he still owns half the company.

          And maybe people are thinking that if Ballmer is going, this is a perfect time to put the company in the hands of someone beholden to the shareholders, instead of Bill Gates. And, long term, it's hard to argue with that.

          • Wait, what?

            While I just love jumping in on the Microsoft stomping, thinking that 'shareholders' will drive MS into anything but the ground is really delusional.

            Or, are you just being sneaky?

            • by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday October 02, 2013 @12:47PM (#45016503) Homepage

              thinking that 'shareholders' will drive MS into anything but the ground is really delusional

              As opposed to what they're doing now, with a series of products nobody is buying and for which they're taking huge write downs? Or that hardware makers are informing Microsoft they'll no longer make products for?

              It's hard not to think Microsoft isn't being driven in to the ground now.

              Or, are you just being sneaky?

              Not at all. I'm saying welcome to the stock market where shareholder value seems to be what drives everything, and long-term planning be damned.

              If you don't want a bunch of stock owners yelling about how badly you're doing ... don't go public.

            • "Or, are you just being sneaky?"

              Sneak on to Gates as he sneaked on to us

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by geekoid (135745)

            5% is not a minority share holder.
            And the Top 20 own 5%, not the three trying to oust him.

            • 5% is not a minority share holder.

              OK, you're right. 5% is not a minority sharholder. %5 is a percentage.

              Someone who holds 5% of the stock in a company however IS a minority shareholder. That's going by any definition. [businessdictionary.com] I can find, anyway.

            • 5% is not a minority share holder.

              Anyone with less than 50% of the voting rights is a minority shareholder by definition. Minority shareholder != Minor shareholder.

          • by lgw (121541) on Wednesday October 02, 2013 @12:36PM (#45016337) Journal

            Bill will prevent a new CEO that "remakes" the company via massive layoffs to save costs - which has never once worked to "turn around" a software company, but no one ever seems to learn that. Presumably the activist board members want just that, not realizing it would kill the company in a few years, or perhaps not caring (hey, what's 100k jobs gone if I can boost the stock 10% before it crashes - we'll know when to exit). Heck, even as an old school /.er I find it hard to root for potlatch on that scale.

            Bill had a pretty good track record for the shareholders during his tenure - all the same things than made /. create it's own special icon for him. Makes me wonder if the heart of the dispute is as cynical as the above, or something more interesting.

            [ BTW: If you're new to the game: "synergy" means "layoffs" and "turnaround CEO" means "lay off most everyone". Look for those terms in a merger near you (and run). ]

            • To the shareholders - be careful about what you wish for.

              http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/1423642.stm [bbc.co.uk]

              There are plenty of stories of "New blood" turning solid businesses into manure.

              • Exactly. If MBA suits can destroy the company that invented modern technology why should BG let them into Redmond? Whatever you think of his products and actions, would you let an MBA take ownership of your code?
            • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

              by disposable60 (735022)
              The shareholders define "value" as the stock price at the end of the next reporting period. As soon as it's above their (buy-in price + comissions), they'll sell. Zero interest in where the stock will be five or ten years from now. Of course, I'm only talking about the big, institutional holders. The employees and 401k-holders will be farked.
    • by KiloByte (825081) on Wednesday October 02, 2013 @11:28AM (#45015297)

      or to have them ritually [newscientist.com] mutilated [salon.com].

    • "Now if you don't mind, I have to go save thousands of African kids from getting malaria."

      It's just too bad that he couldn't have save thousands of Linux kids from getting SCO lawsuits.

      That said, these "three investors" just want to jack up the short term stock price. They'd rape their own dead grandmothers' if it would raise the stock price. They saw the price jump after the Ballmer announcement, and are hoping that some buzz can do a repeat in the short term.

      More than anyone else in the world, he is emotionally attached to Microsoft because it is his baby, and wants the best for it in the

    • by Sir_Sri (199544)

      That's actually a good argument to be rid of him though.

      He is nominally in control, but owns very little of it now (~5%), and spends most of his time not doing microsoft related things. If he wants to come back to microsoft that's one thing. But he's got other things to do - and microsoft needs to look out for shareholders of the other 95% of the money.

      That said, I think it's somewhat silly - Billg's big job right now is helping to find a successor to Ballmer, which, as a 5% shareholder he is certainly en

  • Or prevent them... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Antiocheian (859870) on Wednesday October 02, 2013 @11:15AM (#45015133) Journal

    ...from looting Microsoft.

  • Misleading Headline (Score:5, Informative)

    by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Wednesday October 02, 2013 @11:16AM (#45015145)

    The headline is a bit misleading.

    THREE of 20 of the top investers have demanded Gates step down.

    Non-news.

    • Um ya... actually the words "Microsoft Investors" in the title imply any integer above 1. The more interesting thing is how much financial and boardroom clout those insurgents might be wielding.

      • by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Wednesday October 02, 2013 @11:48AM (#45015585)

        Um ya... actually the words "Microsoft Investors" in the title imply any integer above 1.

        Yes, well, the headline implies more than a few.

        Actually, *I* own 100 shares. So if *I* as an "investor" seek Gates' removal, does that warrant a story at Slashdot?

        The entire group of 20 investors onws ONLY 0.5% more than Gates holds all by himself. So what percentage do you think 3 of those 20 owns?

        The headline *IS* misleading.

        • The headline implies more than one investor. What you infer from the title is due to your own thought processes, which apparently caused you to be mislead. This isn't about the count of investors agitating for the change, but rather the influence they wield, as covered quite well by others in this thread.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      They also think Gates wields a disproportionate amount of power relative to his financial stake and day-to-day activity within the company.

      Gates holds 4.5% of the company stock, and the "three investors" combined hold about 5%. Sounds like a pecker contest to me.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by cbhacking (979169)

        Um, no. You are wrong, the people who modded you Informative are wrong, and you are part of the problem here. The three investors are part of a group of 20 that collectively hold 5%. Unless those three are an incredibly disproportionately large portion of the group of 20, their combined percentage will be tiny relative to what Gates holds.

    • by Morpeth (577066)

      Good catch, nice to way to sensationalize a non-story. Editors should have looked at the article, since it says 3 of 20 in the very first line of the story.

    • by Alomex (148003)

      The headline is a bit misleading.

      To paraphrase Jack Nicholson in a Few Good Men: "are there any other kind?"

  • Power grab (Score:5, Interesting)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday October 02, 2013 @11:17AM (#45015151) Journal
    These are people who want power for themselves. It's not because they believe Gates does a poor job.

    When the investors take over the company, beware. This is what happened to HP.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      There's somethign to be said for keeping the founder at the helm but in the case of Microsoft I do believe Gates is part of the problem. I worked there from the mid-90's to the mid-2000's and a lot of the cultural problems started with Gates. They only became apparent with Ballmer because exponential growth came to a halt but they were there. Not to mention that without Gates' support Ballmer would never have lasted as long as he did.

    • "hese are people who want power for themselves. It's not because they believe Gates does a poor job."

      If Microsoft is lucky it's just a power grab. It's also possible that they think that Gates is excessively sentimental about wanting his baby to succeed, long term, as a company, and that they could make more money by cashing it out in the near term, or by sending it to the M&A chop-shop.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Aaron H (2820425)

      Yeah, just imagine... they'd put profits over quality and the product would start to suck and its advertising would feel really patronizing, with lots of glitzy flash but little substance.

      Man, I can't even imagine a world where Microsoft operated that way.

    • Agreed. A power vacuum sucks too hard. It takes a more gentle touch to produce the desired results...
  • A titular role only? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by metrix007 (200091) on Wednesday October 02, 2013 @11:20AM (#45015199)

    Bill Gates is chairman in name only, is he not?

    This would seem fitting since it is the company that be he built....it's kind of shitty to force people out of the thing they made.

    Alternatively, perhaps Bill Gates will be to Microsoft as the Schwartzes were to Grey Matter...

    • If there were to be a no-Gates Microsoft aftermath, I propose a debate tour: Gates vs. RMS, 10 universities.

      • I propose a debate tour: Gates vs. RMS, 10 universities.

        This is the new Millennium . . . we don't watch people debate any more.

        We lock them up in reality TV shows, and watch them spewing out frivolous drivel for hours on end, before voting on who we dislike the most.

        Gates vs. RMS? I think one of the Kardashians would win that one. Even if they aren't on the show.

    • by TheP4st (1164315)

      it's kind of shitty to force people out of the thing they made.

      I'm sure he was aware of that possibility when Microsoft launched their IPO 27 years ago, and compared to how many other company founders have fared after their company went public I'd say that Gates have lasted for a pretty damn long time. It's all part of doing business, a place were ethics and morals only are facetious words used in corporate PR bullshit.

    • "This would seem fitting since it is the company that be he built....it's kind of shitty to force people out of the thing they made."

      Yes, especially when Gates never did anything like that to anyone else!

  • Fools (Score:4, Interesting)

    by twocows (1216842) on Wednesday October 02, 2013 @11:20AM (#45015205)
    As much as I disagree with his business tactics over the years, Gates is a freaking genius. One read of the "Internet Tidal Wave [usdoj.gov]" memo, which was written years ago and was correct about 90% of its predictions, should tell you that. Gates was one of the primary reasons, if not the only reason, Microsoft was successful to begin with. These three people are complete fools and ought to be off with Ballmer.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      read "The Road Ahead" and come back to us later.

    • Re:Fools (Score:5, Interesting)

      by dkleinsc (563838) on Wednesday October 02, 2013 @12:38PM (#45016385) Homepage

      As much as I disagree with his business tactics over the years, Gates is a freaking genius.

      I'm not sure whether he's a genius, but I had a lot more respect for him once I read this [joelonsoftware.com], which is Joel Spolsky's first-hand account of working for the man. He wasn't necessarily a genius, but he was a very effective combination of ruthless businessman and smart technical guy.

    • That's an interesting memo., especially since anyone who has read the original release of "The Road Ahead" knows it couldn't possibly have been written by Gates in 1995.
  • by Ravaldy (2621787) on Wednesday October 02, 2013 @11:23AM (#45015233)

    I've supported Microsoft for many years and I still believe they do some things right but on the consumer side they are lacking to say the least. They need new blood that will change the face of MS. They need to continue what they do for MS developers but improve their approach to their users. Innovation is key in today's technology market and MS needs to show they can still innovate at all business levels.

    • by JustNiz (692889)

      >> I still believe they do some things right

      Really? like what? I'm genuinely asking/interested.

      • Once you get past the UI, Windows 8 and Server 2012 are pretty damned good products. Of course, everyone focuses on the UI because its what people see but you have to remember that Windows does have a lot of other components behind that UI. Office is much the same way, although it's a bit bloated in places. I got to play around with Azure a bit too. I don't know how it compares to competitors, but it is a nifty platform.

        Then there's other products like Xbox which seems to have done quite well, including Kin

        • by JustNiz (692889)

          Did you notice that even your own list of what yu think are the best Microsoft products needed to include caveats for each?
          Seems to me all you need is better experience with the alternatives.

          • by MaWeiTao (908546)

            What you're trying to argue makes no sense whatsoever. Everything has it's caveats, including everything from Apple. All the flavors of Linux feature a multitude of caveats, many of which are worse than anything you'll suffer with Microsoft. Let's take Office as an example. I use OpenOffice at home and have used iWork for a couple of years. They're both pretty good, but nowhere near as good as Office, even with it's quirks.

            So really, the decision comes down to which products offer the fewest compromises, or

            • by TheP4st (1164315)

              It's at a point where people are grasping at straws to find fault with the company.

              When I see the General Sherman giant sequoia [wikipedia.org] I think "Now that is one motherfucking huge tree!", I guess you just shrug your shoulders and go "meh, straw"

          • Did you notice I never said any of them were perfect? The iPod is nice and easy to use, except for the price. Linux is cheap and works on a wide range of devices, but many distros have poor support. You can find a caveat for anything. In general, I think Windows 8 is pretty good, it just happens that its flaws are in the most pain in the ass location but 95% of the OS is really good for anyone intelligent enough to realize that even a fatal flaw doesn't mean the rest of the product isn't well done.

            • by JustNiz (692889)

              I wasn't arguing that absolutely all parts of it are rubbish, but I was arguing as you also correctly point out, that its fatally flawed.

        • Once you get past the UI, Windows 8 and Server 2012 are pretty damned good products. Of course, everyone focuses on the UI because its what people see but you have to remember that Windows does have a lot of other components behind that UI. Office is much the same way, although it's a bit bloated in places. I got to play around with Azure a bit too. I don't know how it compares to competitors, but it is a nifty platform.

          Then there's other products like Xbox which seems to have done quite well, including Kinect, and the Surface Pro (RT not so much).

          It's easy to focus on the bad because it tends to be in the most obvious places that affect the most people, but there's still plenty of good at Microsoft. Even Internet Explorer has come a long way since IE 6.

          I don't think that's what bothers the investors though. Its things like being a major player in the smartphone market. Laugh at the iphone. Ignore iphone. Surrender market willfully to iphone, then android. Scratch like hell to catch up to the iphone and android. Settle for crumbs left on the floor. Ditto tablets. Ditto cloud. They don't lead, they follow. And follow rather poorly at that. To an extent, that's been their MO since Gates: let others create the market, then use muscle to take the market. But

        • by whoever57 (658626)

          Once you get past the UI, Windows 8 and Server 2012 are pretty damned good products.

          In my experience Exchange 2013 on Server 2012 is an unstable POS. We have this at work, serving a small number of mailboxes and about once per month, it goes haywire, requiring a reboot.

        • by JohnFen (1641097)

          Of course, everyone focuses on the UI because its what people see

          Everyone focuses on the UI because that's what gets in the way. The improvements in Windows 8 are not earth-shaking, and not nearly large enough to overcome the awfulness of the UI.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 02, 2013 @11:24AM (#45015245)

    All of the top 3 are hedge fund money runners.

    They are NOT interested in Microsoft's long term health, but in having someone at the top to give their 40%+ return in a year and who the fuck cares what happens after that. If the money runners had their way, Apple would have been liquidated in '98.

    That's what these people are all about.

    They are not techies. They are Wall Street scum bags.

    MS is in the "Cash Cow" phase of its life. It will end. What they need is a 'visionary' who is NOT tied to Wall Street (a la Jobs) but never the less, knows the roots and corporate culture of MS - Gates is the ONLY one who can make the next leader taken seriously.

    • All of the top 3 are hedge fund money runners.

      They are NOT interested in Microsoft's long term health, but in having someone at the top to give their 40%+ return in a year and who the fuck cares what happens after that. If the money runners had their way, Apple would have been liquidated in '98.

      That's what these people are all about.

      They are not techies. They are Wall Street scum bags.

      MS is in the "Cash Cow" phase of its life. It will end. What they need is a 'visionary' who is NOT tied to Wall Street (a la Jobs) but never the less, knows the roots and corporate culture of MS - Gates is the ONLY one who can make the next leader taken seriously.

      Bill Gates is Microsoft's largest shareholder which gives him considerable power. Unfortunately, he lost interest in Microsoft years ago.. That's why he allowed a close personal friend (Steve Ballmer) to remain CEO for 13 years with no regard for how well he did the job.

      • by jader3rd (2222716)

        Bill Gates is Microsoft's largest shareholder which gives him considerable power.

        Largest share holder, holding a grand total of 4.5% of Microsoft shares. If all other share holders want to change something, they could and over power Gates' shares.

        • Do you have the slightest idea of what it takes to own 4.5% of a company like Microsoft if you're not:

          - the founder
          - a corporate fund (hedge, mutual, pension, etc.)
          - an investment bank
          - a government entity
          • by TheP4st (1164315)

            Do you have the slightest idea of what it takes to own 4.5% of a company like Microsoft

            About 12.465 Billion USD?

      • by asmkm22 (1902712)

        Keep in mind that he has a deal or contract or something where he sells a ton of his shares back every year. He started with 49% and is down to around 4%. Supposedly he'll have nothing by about 2018 if he stays the course.

      • by dkleinsc (563838)

        Unfortunately, he lost interest in Microsoft years ago.. That's why he allowed a close personal friend (Steve Ballmer) to remain CEO for 13 years with no regard for how well he did the job.

        I would lose interest in business too, if I were worth $50 billion. At this point, he doesn't really have any reason to care about Microsoft, except as a nostalgia thing.

        But generally speaking, I'd say BillG would be the person most capable of turning the ship around, just because the markets, the employees, and management would all respect him (deservedly or not).

  • Bite my shiny metal ass.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Except Gates doesn't own enough shares to do that.

      He's been steadily selling off his shares for years, and I think he's down to 4.5% or so with the expectation that by 2018 he won't have any.

      At which point, if you're a company trying to make long-term plans and possibly fix things, do you want someone with 4.5% of the shares to be able to wield as much power as Bill does?

      The whole point of this is that Bill is perceived as being able to control a larger proportion of Microsoft than the number of shares he o

  • by Karmashock (2415832) on Wednesday October 02, 2013 @11:31AM (#45015333)

    Pick one.

    • Neither. We're microsoft. We'll build an escalator so he can do both at once.
      • by afgam28 (48611)

        Is this going to be like some kind of shoddy Microsoft elevator, which would send him up a few flights before crashing and sending him tumbling down again? :)

  • If Bill has his focus sharply fixed on the foundation, and that is where he directs all of his energy, then isn't it fair that he not have strong influence on day to day activity in the company.

    "Bill, we need to make a call on Skype. 16 Billion dollar's at stake"
    "Not now, I'm on a bullock cart touring an Indian Village."
    "But Bill, you're the chairman."
    "Ah, yes. Let me think about it. Well, I've thought about it. Buy Skype, but then make sure you follow up by buying Nokia."
    "Got it Bill. You're the boss."
    *cli

  • by EMG at MU (1194965) on Wednesday October 02, 2013 @11:34AM (#45015387)
    I'm certain they want him to step down because they want to focus on short term profits. Investors have no vision, no desire to better the company, no reason to do anything besides focus on short term profits.
    • No, investors do have vision, a desire to better the company, and a focus on long-term profits. What you're describing are speculators. Sadly, speculation has become a massive part of the stock market and has almost everything to do with the 90s shift of pensions to stock-based retirement funds managed by mutual and hedge funds.

      The small bright side is that a lot more people are involved in the stock market and its benefits instead of it being limited to only the wealthy. The big down side are events lik

  • by tekrat (242117) on Wednesday October 02, 2013 @11:34AM (#45015389) Homepage Journal

    It's as simple as that. The 3 hedge fund managers are interested in looting the company's bank account, saddling the company with outrageous debt, and then cutting it up and selling off the pieces. It's the Mitt Romney strategy. Or rather, and more accurately, the standard wall-street tactic. It's why America doesn't make anything anymore, and the greedy bastard 1% fuckers should all be lined up against a wall and executed.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      It's a vulture capitalist tactic. Wall Street is far more encompassing than that one strategy.

      " It's why America doesn't make anything anymore,"

      That not true, America makes a lot of things.

    • by Nyder (754090)

      ... It's why America doesn't make anything anymore, and the greedy bastard 1% fuckers should all be lined up against a wall and executed.

      Just to be sure, shouldn't we take out the top 5%?

  • He is starting to earn a lot of good will, and that will reflect in the price as long as he is attached to the company in a role.

    Of course he could step down to CEO; which would be hilarious AND helpfull

  • I think his response should be something like:
    "Lol wut? Right after I stepped down as CEO or whatever in 01 is precisely when MS went off the rails on a crazy train. I'm hijacking this bitch 100%. Everyone else get off"
    • " Right after I stepped down as CEO or whatever in 01 is precisely when MS went off the rails on a crazy train."

      That is a pretty major bit of revisionist history. Microsoft started sucking well before 2001.

  • At the current and long standing rate his divestment will be complete in 2018, so he has been waving goodbye for a quarter century. By coincidence this is just after Steve Ballmer's long expected departure when his youngest child graduates high school.

    Now Ballmer is cutting out early and so is he. At least giving the appearance. But wait - as a billionaire with his own investment groups that manage not only his vast wealth he could actually be the one calling for his own ouster. That way he can escape

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