Bill Gates on coming back to Microsoft: Not a chance

The Microsoft co-founder says that although he talks to Microsoft executives periodically, his charitable work is a full-time gig.

Don Reisinger
Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
2 min read
Bill Gates administers an oral vaccine to a child during a recent trip to Chad.
Bill Gates administers an oral vaccine to a child during a recent trip to Chad. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has officially put all speculation to rest that he might be coming back to his company.

"Well, I made the transition to work full-time on the [Bill & Melinda Gates] Foundation, and that'll be what I do for the rest of my life," Gates told the Sydney Morning Herald in an interview published today. "I'm part-time involved with Microsoft, including even being in touch this week to give some of my advice but that's not going to change--the foundation requires all of my energy and we feel we're having a great impact, picking good scientists, [and] look[ing] at what's working and what's not working. So, part-time Microsoft, but full-time foundation for all my future."

Gates stepped down from Microsoft in 2008 to lead his foundation full-time. Since then, he has been deeply involved in the organization's philanthropic efforts, traveling around the globe and sharing his vision on how better health and agriculture can create a more stable world. Last month, he was awarded the World Food Program USA's George McGovern Leadership Award for his help in addressing hunger and poverty issues around the world.

However, last week, Fortune reported, citing a source "close to Gates," that he was considering returning full time to Microsoft. The idea was quickly tossed out by Microsoft observers and those who had remembered an interview Gates did over the summer with the Daily Mail when he said that "my full-time work for the rest of my life is this foundation." As with today's interview, Gates told the Daily Mail at the time that he's "part-time involved at Microsoft."

The added confirmation is good news for Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who would probably be affected by a Gates return. But that doesn't mean Ballmer's out of the woods.

Earlier this year, Microsoft's board awarded Ballmer nearly $1.4 million in compensation, saying that he has done a good job in both the gaming space and the cloud. However, the directors were critical of Ballmer's handling of the Windows and Windows Live division, which saw revenue slump 2 percent in the past year. Ballmer was also hit hard for failing to jump-start Windows Phone 7 sales and appeal to tablet customers.

Ballmer, who took over as Microsoft CEO in 2000, has also been criticized for his company's falling stock price. Over the past decade, Microsoft shares have fallen nearly 24 percent. Over the last five years, the company's stock has dropped 15 percent. And since January, Microsoft's shares have declined by nearly 8 percent.

That has led shareholders to lose some faith in their CEO. At an election of the company's board of directors earlier this year, Ballmer won the approval of 92 percent of shareholders. Last year, Ballmer earned 95 percent approval. Even worse, he was the only person on Microsoft's board to not receive 99 percent support from shareholders.

As for Gates? He secured 99.1 percent approval from shareholders this year.