A closer look at the Microsoft insiders who didn't get the job

Satya Nadella wasn't the only Microsoft insider on the CEO shortlist. What's next for Tony Bates, Kevin Turner, and Stephen Elop now that they didn't get top spot?

Now that it's official that Satya Nadella is Microsoft's next CEO, it's time to ponder what happens with some of the other leading company insiders who didn't get the nod.

As part of the search process, the Microsoft CEO search committee considered not only more than a few outsiders, but also a number of internal candidates as possible replacements for now ex-CEO Steve Ballmer. From conversations I've had with various contacts, I think the committee gave at least passing consideration to most of the members of Microsoft's senior leadership team.

That means all the inner-circle vice presidents -- Terry Myerson, the head of Microsoft's unified OS team; Julie Larson-Green, head of devices and studios; Qi Lu, head of applications and services; and Tony Bates, head of business development and evangelism -- were all "considered" to at least some degree for CEOship.

Microsoft Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner also was on the internal candidate list, as was Stephen Elop, the former CEO of Nokia who is poised to become the head of devices at Microsoft. (Elop is technically an outsider but more like an insider given he's about to rejoin Microsoft once Nokia's handset business is integrated into Microsoft following regulatory approval.) A couple of my sources believed Eric Rudder, executive vice president of advanced strategy, also may have been actively considered for the top spot.

Stephen Elop

Of those on this list, Elop was mentioned during early days of the hunt by many as the most likely to become the next Microsoft CEO -- especially in the period just after Microsoft announced its plan to buy Nokia's devices and services business. Elop formerly headed up Microsoft's Office business before joining its biggest Windows Phone partner. Microsoft is in dire need of a better mobile strategy. Boom. The next CEO has got to be Elop, a number of company watchers (and at least one of my reporting colleagues) predicted.

But then a couple of things happened. First, details about Elop's controversial post-Nokia compensation plans (inextricably intertwined with reports about his in-process divorce) went public. Then there was a sources-said report that claimed Elop was in favor of selling off Bing and the Xbox. Given Microsoft management's insistence that Microsoft couldn't and shouldn't abandon its consumer properties, those claims about Elop's supposed plans were damning. For the past few months, Elop's name seldom bubbled to the top of any rumored CEO candidate lists.

Another "sources said" story seemed to help erode any chances that Turner might have had to become CEO. While many company watchers never really believed "KT" was a viable candidate, there was talk back when Ballmer brought him into the company in 2005 that he was being groomed by Ballmer as Ballmer's heir-apparent. But once a thinly sourced report claiming Turner was leading the internal candidate list but would only be keeping the seat warm for Elop, his name also seemed to disappear completely from any leaks about who was leading the internal CEO candidate list.

(Though a much-noticably slimmer and more dapper Turner was called out by name by Ballmer and Nadella during yesterday's CEO-installation festivities, he didn't look very happy in the couple of cutaways where we got a glimpse of him.)

As of today, Turner, Elop, and Bates are all still Microsoft employees. But given the rumored interest all three are believed to have in becoming CEOs again at some point in their careers, it will be interesting to see how long they'll stick around in the new Nadella-led regime.

As things currently stand, it's business as usual. Elop is set to become head of Microsoft's expanded devices business, with Larson-Green and her troops reporting to him. Turner remains the COO, but not involved in centralized marketing (and only partially involved with OEMs), following last July's "One Microsoft" reorg. And Bates, the former CEO of Skype, remains head of business development and evangelism.

This story originally appeared as "What's next for the Microsoft insiders who didn't get the CEO nod" on ZDNet.

About the author

    Mary Jo Foley has been a tech journalist for almost 30 years. She is editor of ZDNet's "All About Microsoft" blog. She authored "Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft Plans to Stay Relevant in the Post-Gates Era" and co-hosts the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT Network.

     

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