Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer appeared on “CBS This Morning” talking about his new job as owner of the L.A. Clippers.
One thing that strikes us: how obviously happy he is. He had the whole staff of CBS cracking up.
It reminds us of the other former CEO of Microsoft, Bill Gates, who is also extremely happy to be mostly focused on philanthropy. Gates, who is chairman, spends about one-third of his time at Microsoft since Satya Nadella took over as CEO.
Ballmer was loath to give up his job as CEO of Microsoft, which also made him happy. “CBS This Morning” anchor Charlie Rose asked point blank if he was pushed out, and he said no.
“No one wanted me to leave as CEO. We had a lot of ‘tough’ discussions about whether to buy Nokia. It’s a big decision for a software company … I think it’s been well chronicled. We had some ‘dust-up’ type discussions,” he said describing board-level talks about the $US7 billion acquisition.
At the time, Ballmer believed there were only two options, he told “CBS This Morning”: Buy Nokia and stay through a transition. Or, if the board wanted, not buy it. Ballmer apparently flew into a rage at a board meeting at the thought that the board would reject his Nokia acquisition, according to BusinessWeek. But, Microsoft CEOs have a long history of flying into rages.
Ballmer then decided that a third option existed: buying Nokia and handing it off to a new CEO, he told the “CBS This Morning” crew.
The events leading up to his exit reportedly broke his relationship with Gates. Gates and Ballmer are no longer on speaking terms, according to a Vanity Fair profile of Microsoft published earlier this month.
When CBS asked him about Gates, Ballmer indicated that the two were still on the outs.
“We’ve dusted-up many times in our lives. That kind of stuff happens. We’ve done that before,” he said and then refused to talk more about it.
He’s still got power at the company. As Gates systematically sells off his Microsoft stake, Ballmer recently became Microsoft’s single largest shareholder, with a 4% stake. And, Ballmer’s got no plans to sell, he’s said many times.
But in August, after he bought the Clippers, he opted to give up his Microsoft board seat and “move on,” he says.
Ballmer also talked candidly about other things:
Why did he spend $US2 billion for the Clippers (three times more than anyone had ever paid for an NBA franchise)? It was his third attempt to buy a basketball team.
“I paid what I had to pay. I tried [to buy a basketball team] before. It’s like everything. It’s version 3 before we get it right,” he laughed. “I came wanting the team. I had no clue how to do this. It all got cobbled together. … I knew what I was willing to pay.”
“Satya spoke about his personal experience,” Ballmer told the “CBS This Morning” crew. “But you do have people that don’t necessarily get a fair shake through the process. Particularly a group of women in technology, that’s probably a tougher place to be. So relating his personal experience, probably not what that group needed to hear at that time, despite that it would be a nice world if it did work out that way.”
He also added, “Satya showed he’s a lovely human being.”
It’s a great interview. Take a look: