(Adds analyst comment; recasts to add reference to retaining
By Bill Rigby
SEATTLE Aug 19 Former Microsoft Corp
Chief Executive Steve Ballmer has left the software company's
board in order to spend more time on his newly acquired Los
Angeles Clippers basketball team, but said he plans to hang on
to his 4 percent stake in Microsoft.
"I see a combination of the Clippers, civic contribution,
teaching and study taking a lot of time," Ballmer said in a
letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made public by Microsoft
"The fall will be hectic between teaching a new class and
the start of the NBA season so my departure from the board is
effective immediately," he wrote.
Ballmer, 58, paid an NBA-record $2 billion for the Clippers.
On Monday he greeted several thousand fans gathered at the
team's Staples Center home with the trademark screams that
punctuated employee meetings at Microsoft.
His exit marks the end of a 34-year association with the
company that led the personal computer revolution. Ballmer
joined Bill Gates' firm in 1980 when it was just a small startup
in the Seattle suburbs, and succeeded him as CEO from 2000 until
His decision to step down from the board is not surprising
after 12 months of change at the head of the 39-year old
software giant. It avoids potential board tension between
Microsoft's new leader and the old regime, as Nadella attempts
to move the company away from its traditional PC-focused mindset
toward mobile computing.
"It removes the final 'Ballmer overhang' at Microsoft," said
FBR Capital Markets analyst Daniel Ives of Ballmer's exit. "His
resignation from the board represents a positive, as it leaves
the company with a clean sheet of paper."
A year ago this week Ballmer announced his plan to retire
from Microsoft, amid discontent over his leadership fueled by
activist shareholder ValueAct Capital.
That caused five months of uncertainty at the top of
Microsoft until Feb. 4, when veteran insider Nadella was
appointed CEO and co-founder Gates stepped down as chairman.
As Gates sells shares to fund his philanthropy, Ballmer has
become the biggest individual shareholder in Microsoft, owning a
4 percent stake worth about $15 billion.
"I hold more Microsoft shares than anyone other than index
funds and love the mix of profits, investments and dividends
returned in our stock," Ballmer said in his letter to Nadella.
"I expect to continue holding that position for the foreseeable
Microsoft shares closed up 50 cents at $45.33 on Nasdaq.
They are up 40 percent since Ballmer said he planned to retire,
and are trading at levels not seen since the tech stock boom of
(Reporting by Bill Rigby; Editing by Diane Craft, Chizu
Nomiyama and Dan Grebler)