According to All Things Digital, its deep throat in Redmond said that the departure of CEO Steve Ballmer from Microsoft was more sudden than was depicted by the company in its announcement that he would be retiring within the next year in a planned smooth transition. The decision to go seems to have technically been Ballmer’s he had not aimed to leave this soon.
Ballmer’s timeline was moved up first by him and then the nine-member board, including his longtime partner and Microsoft co-founder and chairman Bill Gates after all agreed that it was best if he left sooner than later. The problem was that there is a potentially nasty proxy fight, continued business performance declines and Ballmer’s leadership was attracting too much attention.
Rumours in Redmond suggested that Gates had knifed Ballmer. This was because Ballmer did not thank Gates at all in his leaving letter. Its absence has been much discussed internally at Microsoft, where it has been seen as an unusual slight and a sign of a rift. Gates did not reference his longtime business partner in any celebratory manner in Microsoft’s announcement. He just said that he would be working to find a replacement.
Some have suggested that this was not because of tensions between the pair, but was done to minimize “lame duck concerns” that might arise if Ballmer was portrayed as already out the door. Those same sources did not believe that Gates asked Ballmer to step down sooner but just stopped backing him.
Gates had always been Ballmer’s major backer, despite increasing pressure both externally and from other directors for him to step down.