Microsoft’s (MSFT) board will soon choose the next Microsoft CEO, and some say the two front runners are Ford (F) CEO Alan Mulally and Satya Nadella, who leads Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise group, reports Bloomberg’s Dina Bass and Carol Hymowitz.
A lot of people think Mulally could really good for the company, especially since he was the mastermind behind Steve Ballmer’s big reorg last summer, named “One Microsoft.”
Nadella has been rising fast, too, from the division that ran Office, to the division that ran Bing, to the one that’s running cloud computing and tools for software developers.
Although Charlson is not involved with Microsoft’s CEO search, he has worked with Microsoft in the past, finding an executive to run Microsoft’s American sales organization a few years ago, he said.
Interestingly, the Microsoft board had previously named COO Kevin Turner to follow Ballmer, Charlson said. “I know in Microsoft’s case Turner was put in the succession plan to succeed Ballmer,” Charlson told Business Insider.
And Turner is still considered a contender but the problem with selecting him is that there are “public questions if Steve Ballmer’s strategy will bring results,” he said. As Ballmer’s right-hand man, if Ballmer’s strategy is “flawed,” then is Kevin Turner the right person to lead the company in a new direction?
As for Mulally, he “would be a bold decision by the board of directors,” but he isn’t exactly qualified “to be a tech CEO” and “run Microsoft,” says Charlson. “There’s a way to force positive change and there’s a way to shock the system where it could possibly break. Getting a CEO of a car company … would abandon the roots of what made company successful,” he says. It’s better for Microsoft to get a CEO that “speaks the language” of Microsoft.
Given that both Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer are involved in the search for the new CEO, Charlson thinks these are the obvious criteria that they will want:
- someone who understands Microsoft’s culture.
- someone who understands the tech world, particularly enterprise software (Microsoft’s bread and butter).
- someone with the experience of running a publicly traded company
- someone who understands mobile, the strategy where Microsoft has staked its future by building its own PCs and buying Nokia’s device business for $7 billion.
There’s really only one person that has all of these qualities, Charlson says: Elop.
Before leaving Microsoft to become Nokia’s CEO, Elop was the head of Microsoft’s Business Division, responsible for Microsoft’s cash-cow Office business.
“Microsoft plans to become more of a mobile company. If they are going to abandon that strategy after buying Nokia for $7 billion, that’s highly doubtful. And if they are going to go with a mobile, Elop is the obvious choice,” Charlson said.