RANCHO PALOS VERDES, California — When Steve Ballmer retired from the CEO job at Microsoft in 2014, he set his sights on becoming a tech investor and soon made a big bet on Twitter, acquiring a 4% stake.
That bet has not turned out very well so far, and now the former Microsoft head honcho admits he’s lost his taste for investing.
At the Code Conference taking place near Los Angeles this week, Ballmer discussed his short-lived stint as a tech investor and his decision to move on to other pursuits.
“I’m out of that phase, for those of you who might be looking for money. I’m not in that phase at all anymore,” he said. “I’m out of that investment thing.”
He’s focused on owning his NBA basketball team, the LA Clippers; running his philanthropic organisation with his wife, The Ballmer Group; and playing golf, he told Business Insider on the sidelines of the conference.
Back around the time he bought stock in Twitter it was trading at well above $US25 per share. The stock is currently well below $US20, as the internet company’s stagnant user growth and internal turmoil have tarnished its image on Wall Street.
Ballmer didn’t blame Twitter’s poor stock performance for souring him on investing, but he laughed about it, saying it was part of a “magical decision” he made at that time to try out a new career.
While he wouldn’t say if he’s sold off much of his Twitter stake, Ballmer confirmed that he still has a sizeable stake.
A believer and a critic
These days, Ballmer doesn’t even tune into the quarterly conference calls, though he says he still believes in the company, its role in sharing information real-time and its ability to let people talk directly to each other.
“I still have a lot of money into the concept that says there is an opportunity to make it into a real business,” he said, although he also added he doesn’t see “exactly” how the company would immediately do that.
Ballmer continues to be vocal in his criticism of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who is doing double duty as CEO of online payment company Square.
“Being a CEO is a hard job, right? I can speak to that. Being a CEO of two things, I can’t even imagine,” he said. “You can’t do that if you are really going to do the right thing for your shareholders.”
Interestingly, Ballmer acknowledged that he’s never really gotten into tweeting much himself, feeling like his tweets were sort of boring or repetitive.
“I just felt like, how many times could I tweet, ‘Ho! Great game today!'” he laughed. “I don’t want to be that guy. I want to have something interesting to say.”