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8/19/2014
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Steve Ballmer Resigns From Microsoft Board

Former Microsoft CEO -- and newly minted LA Clippers owner -- Steve Ballmer steps down from the board but will remain Microsoft's largest individual shareholder.

After Ballmer: 8 Execs You Love To Hate
After Ballmer: 8 Execs You Love To Hate
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Six months after stepping down as Microsoft CEO and a day after firing up fans as the new owner of the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers, Steve Ballmer resigned from the Microsoft board. He announced the news Tuesday in a letter to CEO Satya Nadella that was subsequently posted to Microsoft's website.

Ballmer said his commitments to the Clippers, civic contribution, teaching, and studying will leave too little time to remain a board member. That said, he won't be leaving Microsoft entirely.

"I hold more Microsoft shares than anyone other than index funds and I love the mix of profits, investments and dividends returned in our stock. I expect to continue holding that position for the foreseeable future," he wrote. Later, he reiterated, "I promise to support and encourage boldness by management in my role as a shareholder in any way I can."

[Is Microsoft's "modern" Windows experiment about to end? Read Windows 8.1: 8 Things I Hate About You.]

Given that he spent a record $2 billion to acquire the Clippers, Ballmer's realigned priorities aren't necessarily surprising. On his way out, he complimented his successor's progress, writing that Nadella is "off to a bold and exciting start." Elsewhere in the letter, Ballmer adopted the voice of an elder statesman; after explaining that Microsoft must move to new cloud-oriented profit models while managing current customers, he told Nadella, "You must drive that."

In a response letter, which Microsoft also posted online, Nadella congratulated Ballmer for his successes at the company, wished him well in his new ventures, and said, "I also look forward to partnering with you as a shareholder."

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer speaks at the Windows Phone 8 launch in October 2012.
Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer speaks at the Windows Phone 8 launch in October 2012.

It remains to be seen if Ballmer's departure materially affects Microsoft's strategy. In an interview, Forrester analyst David Johnson said that Nadella's "been doing a pretty good job" leading the company, and that he and his colleagues haven't seen a reason to focus on Ballmer's influence as a board member. The fact that Ballmer's gone, in other words, won't necessarily rock any boats.

"I didn't expect Ballmer to step down from the board this quickly," Johnson said.

Ballmer's relationship with investors and customers was sometimes rocky, especially after Windows 8 and Microsoft's Surface tablets failed to generate sales. But he's off to a good start with his newest constituency: Clippers fans, who gave Ballmer a warm welcome at a rally Monday in Los Angeles. Granted, former owner Donald Sterling's tenure was characterized not only by the racism scandal that ultimately led to his banishment from the league, but also by decades of incompetent, financially stingy management. After all that, fans probably would have cheered any change in leadership.

Still, Ballmer likely would have won fans' support even without the soap opera backdrop. At Monday's event, he drew applause by channeling all of the bombast and enthusiasm that he used to display during Microsoft keynotes.

"We're going to be hardcore. HAAAAARDCORE!" he bellowed at one point. "Something knocks us down, we're going to get back up and keep coming and coming and coming and coming. Did you watch these guys? That was hardcore! HARDCORE, baby! Nothing gets in our way. BOOM! Keep coming. HAAAARDCORE! The hardcore Clippers. That's us."

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Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio

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David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
8/20/2014 | 1:12:10 PM
Something more to this story?
Did he really exit voluntarily? Hard to believe somehow.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
8/20/2014 | 1:19:07 AM
Re: Go Steve
Indeed, he did give out his email. I wonder what sort of system he has in place to filter messages. Probably he has another address for VIP messages. But for the account he gave out, perhaps he has two or three personal assistants dedicated solely to email. Or perhaps Delve and Clutter (part of a breed up upcoming Office 365 products that will magically know exactly what you need to be paying attention to, sometimes before you do) are really that good. Whatever the system, I can only imagine the deluge of email he'd receive if the Clippers, say, won the championship, or, on the other extreme, devestatingly flamed out in the first round. There are around 17 million people in the greater Los Angeles area, after all. Anyhow-- sballmer@clippers.com ;)
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
8/20/2014 | 1:13:59 AM
Re: The New ( Age ) American Success Story
I don't know if Ballmer has any game, but if I recall correctly, he plays basketball regularly. Even if he's not a star athlete (and again, I have no idea), he's 6-5. ;)

I obviously don't really know what his motivations were in buying the Clippers, but it seems to me like Ballmer's wanted to own a sports team since he was a kid. He was the football manager at Harvard, has been extremely involved with his son's sports, and has been part of groups that tried to bring professional sports team to Seattle in the past. Additionally, he overbid for the Clippers. When I heard he threw down $2 billion, I realized that he had to want a team bad. That kind of number is designed to tell everyone else to back off, and to close the deal quickly. If he's actually gone through the hastle of a bidding war, I bet he would have saved hundreds of millions of dollars. But he evidently didn't care about that; instead, he cared about throwing out a giant number to make sure he didn't let the opportunity pass. Despite the fiscal shrewdness he showed at times as CEO, I find this particular instance of overspending to be pretty consistent with his passionate personality.
Gigi3
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Gigi3,
User Rank: Ninja
8/20/2014 | 12:16:46 AM
Re: Yelling, not the most innovative tactic
"How far did that get Microsoft? There's a new generation in Redmond and it's best that he clear the way for it. In his departure from the board, he's done a statesman-like job of that."

Charle, I believe so. He paved and cleared the path for next gen managers.
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
8/19/2014 | 10:22:16 PM
The New ( Age ) American Success Story
This really represents the new American success story in many ways, a geek who always loved sports but was never any good at it goes on to make billions and buys a team in the sport that shunned him so many years ago.

That's how you do it - let's hope I never find true success.   There is a Network I would like to buy.
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
8/19/2014 | 10:17:50 PM
Re: Go Steve
@Shane Most will love him, an enthusiastic owner just like the fans. But it will take some getting used too, because Steve can get as wild as your wildest fan at times.

At least he will shake things up in a city that could use some shaking - and for once it won't be due to an earthquake.
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
8/19/2014 | 10:12:40 PM
Re: Go Steve
As someone who lives in L.A. I am certainly glad the Sterling Era is over and I look forward to seeing Mr.Ballmer in a different light. Never a big fan - you have to respect him and his method.  I hold a similiar philosphy of Life - although I am often not as boisterous, maybe I should be more so because apparently it works.

Rumor has it - he gave out his email address to those at the press conference, I am looking forward to finding it and dropping him a note.

I am sure MS products will eventually be all over the Staples Center - Board or no Board.
melgross
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melgross,
User Rank: Ninja
8/19/2014 | 10:05:49 PM
Re: Yelling, not the most innovative tactic
Of course, realistically, he has the value of his stock to support. I couldn't imagine him saying anything different.
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
8/19/2014 | 9:24:03 PM
Yelling, not the most innovative tactic
He yelled at Linux a lot, as I recall. How far did that get Microsoft? There's a new generation in Redmond and it's best that he clear the way for it. In his departure from the board, he's done a statesman-like job of that.
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
8/19/2014 | 6:56:05 PM
Re: Go Steve
Ballmer's wild enthusiasm is a good fit for pro sports. In tech, his yelling was overkill. Like, why is this guy screaming at a software product announcement? But in basketball it's ok to yell. Clippers fans will love him. 
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