Microsoft chops CEO shortlist to a handful of candidates

Ford's Alan Mulally, Nokia's Stephen Elop, and a couple of internal candidates reportedly make the cut to become the tech giant's next CEO.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
2 min read
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer with his company's Surface tablet. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Microsoft has shortened its list of potential successors to replace CEO Steve Ballmer, according to Reuters.

In this group is Ford CEO Alan Mulally, former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, Microsoft Executive VP Tony Bates, and Microsoft cloud and enterprise chief Satya Nadella. Reuters was unable to get other names, but a source familiar with the matter said there was at least one other internal candidate and a total of more or less five contenders.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who has led the company for the past 13 years, announced in August that he would retire within 12 months once a replacement is found who will carry out Microsoft's new vision of offering more devices and services. The company's board has formed a special committee to seek out potential candidates. Meeting with Microsoft's shareholders, the committee has been narrowing down its list of possible successors from an initial 40 people, both internal and external.

The committee has reportedly spoken with Elop, who will rejoin Microsoft when its $7.2 billion acquisition of the Finnish company's handset division closes. It has also reportedly talked to Mulally, who has been CEO of Ford for seven years. Initially, Mulally expressed disinterest in the position but has reportedly warmed up to the idea in recent weeks. Bates, who is also reportedly on the shortlist, had previously been CEO of Skype.

Names that were floated over the past couple of months but were not mentioned to Reuters are Computer Sciences CEO Mike Lawrie, former Windows Chief Steven Sinofsky, and former Juniper Networks CEO Kevin Johnson.

While Ballmer is expected to leave Microsoft within the next several months, recent reports say the seat change could happen as soon as the end of this year. According to Reuters, however, the process may take longer.

When contacted by CNET, Microsoft declined to comment.