Ballmer Steps Down as Microsoft Director

(The Seattle Times/MCT) -

Steve Ballmer has severed the last of his management ties to Microsoft, stepping down as a board director and ending one of the most lucrative but ultimately mixed leadership runs in corporate America.

Ballmer sent a letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on Tuesday saying he would leave the board “effective immediately.”

“Given my confidence and the multitude of new commitments I am taking on now, I think it would be impractical for me to continue to serve on the board, and it is best for me to move off,” Ballmer wrote.

Ballmer said he plans to continue to hold his massive stake in the software giant, the largest individual holding in Microsoft since co-founder Bill Gates began divesting shares to fund his philanthropy.

“I expect to continue holding that position for the foreseeable future,” Ballmer wrote.

The news comes a bit more than six months after Microsoft replaced Ballmer with Nadella, and almost exactly a year after Ballmer announced plans to step down as CEO. Ballmer left amid shareholder pressure after Microsoft’s stock largely languished for more than a decade, as the company fell behind Google and Apple in consumer markets.

A Microsoft spokesman said that Ballmer was not asked to step down from the board.

Other than Gates, there may be no one more indelibly etched in Microsoft’s history than Ballmer, even more than the other co-founder, Paul Allen. Ballmer spent 34 years at the company and amassed a fortune that Forbes magazine pegged at $18 billion. Just last week, he spent $2 billion of that money to acquire a professional basketball team.

In his letter to Nadella, Ballmer said that the basketball-team purchase, along with a new teaching gig, will keep his schedule “hectic.” A Microsoft spokesman was uncertain where Ballmer would be teaching, though Ballmer told the Los Angeles Times in May that he was considering teaching at the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California. His son recently graduated from USC.

In response to Ballmer’s letter, Nadella offered gratitude and well wishes.

“As you embark on your new journey, I am sure that you will bring the same boldness, passion and impact to your new endeavors that you brought to Microsoft, and we wish you incredible success,” Nadella wrote. “I also look forward to partnering with you as a shareholder.”