An article by Peter Lauria of the Daily Beast says that some senior Microsoft execs are trying to figure out how to get Steve Ballmer fired.
These execs aren’t frustrated about Microsoft’s business performance, Lauria says. They’re frustrated about Microsoft’s crappy stock price (which is trading at about half its level of 11 years ago). They blame Ballmer for the lousy stock price, so they want to see him sacked.
If Lauria’s reporting is accurate, this frustration is ludicrous.
If Microsoft employees want to blame Steve Ballmer for Microsoft’s fundamental business performance over the past decade, that’s one thing. Thinking that he has done a fine job with the business but holding him responsible for the crappy stock performance, however, is absurd.
Now, it would certainly be reasonable if some Microsoft employees were frustrated with Steve’s handling of the company. In the past decade, Microsoft has missed many massive market opportunities (search, iPods, iPhones, Macs, iPads, Android), and it has blown more than $10 billion on a futile attempt to build an Internet business. At the same time, Microsoft’s dominant operating system monopoly has been severely weakened, and it may completely break down in the coming years.
We, at least, would cut Steve a break for the latter half of that–the Windows monopoly part. The market has moved away from Microsoft over this period in a way that no CEO could have prevented. We do think Steve could have done a better job managing the company’s transition here (breaking it up, perhaps–and NOT throwing $10 billion down the Internet rat hole), but we don’t hold him solely responsible for Microsoft’s loss of dominance in the tech market.
But saying Steve has done a good job with the company–growing revenue and earnings–while blaming him for the stock price is preposterous. Microsoft’s stock price has done badly over the last decade in large part because it started the decade at a historic bubble high (Microsofties frustrated by this should check out Yahoo’s stock over the past decade). Microsoft’s stock has also done poorly because Microsoft’s growth rate has slowed significantly, but, again, that is a fundamental issue, one that is separate from the stock price.
So, in short, if senior Microsoft execs want Steve canned because they think he’s done a bad job with the company, fine. But if they’re thinking that a different leader with the same company performance could have producted a higher stock price, they’re dreaming.
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