How's this for a Friday morning surprise? Microsoft just announced that CEO Steve Ballmer will retire "within the next 12 months." Ballmer will stay on as CEO until his successor is chosen. "There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time,” Ballmer said, explaining that Microsoft is in the midst of an "important transformation" and that the company needs a new leader that will be there long term for this new strategy.
Microsoft's board of directors has put together a special committee to find a replacement for Ballmer that includes Chairman of the Board Bill Gates. Microsoft and its search committee plan to work with recruiting firm Heidrick & Struggles International Inc. as part of the CEO hunt, and the Redmond firm says that it will consider both external and internal candidates.
The news of Ballmer's retirement definitely comes as a bit of a surprise, as there haven't really been any indications lately that Ballmer may be planning to step down. That's exactly what he'll be doing within the next year, though, and it'll be interesting to see who Microsoft names as its new CEO.
Ballmer, who started at Microsoft in 1980 and was named CEO in 2000, didn't give any reasons for his retirement. However, he did say in an internal email that the decision is "in the best interests" of Microsoft. Both the official announcement of Ballmer's retirement and his memo can be found at the links below.