Ballmer Departure From Microsoft Was More Sudden Than Portrayed by the Company
Kara Swisher on the timing of Ballmer’s departure:
Interestingly, Ballmer actually indicated that he had planned on staying in his letter about his impending departure, noting: “My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our transformation to a devices and services company focused on empowering customers in the activities they value most.”
That sentence spurred much chatter inside the company, including the persistent rumor that Gates had dropped the bomb on Ballmer. That sentiment was further underscored when Ballmer’s letter contained no reference or thanks to Gates, with whom he has been tightly tethered over the last several decades. 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 also did not reference his longtime business partner in any celebratory manner in Microsoft’s announcement. “As a member of the succession planning committee, I’ll work closely with the other members of the board to identify a great new CEO,” said Gates, in the entirety of the quote about Ballmer’s retirement. “We’re fortunate to have Steve in his role until the new CEO assumes these duties.”
This is what people who have been baffled that Ballmer’s been able to keep his job as long as he has haven’t understood: it’s always been Bill Gates keeping him there. Even as Ballmer shifted to becoming the laughing stock of the tech industry, Gates was his protector.