The day Ballmer went too far: Screaming ultimatum to BoD last July, either buy Nokia or I’m gone!

“As Satya Nadella puts his stamp on Microsoft Corp., he’s coming to grips with the tug of war over strategy and the clash of personalities that marked Steve Ballmer’s final years at the helm,” Dina Bass, Beth Jinks and Peter Burrows report for Bloomberg. “Nadella, who succeeded Ballmer one month ago, took a step this week by unraveling part of a restructuring his predecessor put in place in one of his last acts as chief executive officer. Nadella appointed onetime Democratic political operative Mark Penn to the just-invented post of strategy chief and shuffled other executives to resolve an unwieldy setup Ballmer had established in the marketing department.”

“The new CEO is seeking to reshape a company whose main businesses are losing steam as efforts to expand on the Web and in mobile devices have been thwarted by Apple Inc. and Google Inc.,” Bass, Jinks and Burrows report. “Nadella will also exert his influence on the push into hardware, a strategy shift that fueled some of Ballmer’s fiercest arguments with the board. Before the announcement in August that he would be retiring, some directors were so exasperated they talked about how they might ease him out, including by hiring someone he admired, Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally, to succeed him, according to people with knowledge of the matter; Mulally later fell out of favor when members viewed him as behaving as though the job should be handed to him without so much as a formal interview, according to the people, who weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the situation. A spokeswoman for Mulally declined to comment.”

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer
Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer
“Ballmer’s relations with the board hit a low when he shouted at a June meeting that if he didn’t get his way he couldn’t be CEO, people briefed on the meeting said. The flare-up was over his proposed purchase of most of Nokia Oyj,” Bass, Jinks and Burrows report. “Several directors and co-founder and then-Chairman Bill Gates — Ballmer’s longtime friend and advocate — initially balked at the move into making smartphones, according to people familiar with the situation. So, at first, did Nadella, signaling his position in a straw poll to gauge executives’ reaction to the deal. Nadella later changed his mind.”

“Ballmer was so loud that day in June his shouts could be heard outside the conference room. people with knowledge of the matter said,” Bass, Jinks and Burrows report. “He’d just been told the board didn’t back his plan to acquire two Nokia units, according to people with knowledge of the meeting. He later got most of what he wanted, with the board signing off on a $7.2 billion purchase of Nokia’s mobile-phone business, but by then the damage was done.”

Tons more in the full article – recommended – here.

MacDailyNews Take: Nadella’s initial reaction was right.

That Mr. Wishy Washy failed to stick to his guns shows a lack of decisiveness, or obsequiousness, that does not bode well for the future of the foundering hulk that is the S.S. Microsoft.


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