NEW YORK – On Wednesday, Reuters report that Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) has narrowed their search for a replacement to CEO Steve Ballmer to five people, including Ford (NYSE:F) Motor Co chief Alan Mulally and former Nokia (NYSE:NOK) CEO Stephen Elop. According to sources familiar with the process, the list also includes three Microsoft insiders including, former Skype CEO Tony Bates, who is now responsible for business development, and Satya Nadella, the company’s cloud and enterprise chief.
Despite the shorter list, it would appear that the search will probably stretch into early 2014 as the board interview the candidates and decides which one is the best fit to move the company forward. In August, Ballmer said he would retire within 12 months. Microsoft declined to comment on the process and on behalf of the internal candidates and Nokia representatives could not be reached immediately for comment late on Tuesday.
According to Ford spokesperson Jay Cooney, ‘there is no change from what we announced last November. Alan remains fully focused on continuing to make progress on our One Ford plan. We do not engage in speculation.’
In recent months, investors have pushed Microsoft’s board to look for a turnaround expert to success Ballmer. While Microsoft has a massive cash reserve, certain investors feel the company has missed opportunities in new technologies such as mobile and they have suggested that co-founder Bill Gates should step down from his role as chairman, saying he stands in the way of radical reform at Microsoft.
Furthermore, investors are concerned that, with both Gates and Ballmer up for re-election to Microsoft’s board, they will retain their influence over the company. According to reports, members of the CEO search committee have been speaking with dissenting shareholders. In August, Microsoft offered activist shareholder ValueAct Capital Management a board seat and sources have confirmed that the investor will also be given the same access as the board to the final five candidates.
While Mulally remains the favorite with the press, it is too early to know if he is the actual front-runner to replace Ballmer. Ultimately, whoever steps in as the next CEO at Microsoft will be tasked with turning the software giant’s potential into results and this might prove difficult if the previous two CEO are sitting on the company’s board.
Shares of Microsoft were up 4.20 percent on Wednesday to close at $ 38.18.