Sources tell Reuters that Microsoft (MSFT) is coming under pressure to dump its iconic chairman.
Bill Gates, who co-founded the software giant almost four decades ago, is the target of a campaign by three of its largest investors, who are urging the board to convince Gates to step aside. The investors argue that Gates’s presence as chairman would constrain any effort by a new CEO to bring change to the company.
Although the investors in question control more than 5% of Microsoft shares, the board is unlikely to heed calls to force Gates out.
With a fortune of about $72 billion, Gates has remained the richest man in the U.S. for about two decades. He still holds about 4.5% of Microsoft stock, making him the company’s largest shareholder, but he liquidates about 80 million shares of the company every year as part of a plan to completely eliminate his stake by 2018.
In August, current CEO Steve Ballmer announced that he will retire by the end of the year. The company has begun looking for a replacement, with Gates serving on special committee evaluating candidates.
Since stepping down as CEO in 2000, Gates has concentrated on his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which conducts charitable activities around the world.
Shares of Microsoft fell modestly in Wednesday pre-market trading.