Last month, the Microsoft board formally reprimanded CEO Steve Ballmer and top Windows executives Steven Sinofsky. But they didn’t just have strong words—they hit them in the wallet.Microsoft’s directors awarded the two executives less than their full bonus target, citing missteps with the Windows division Sinofsky ran.
Ballmer is worth nearly $14 billion, thanks in large part to the massive chunk of Microsoft stock he owns—more than 300 million shares. He gets paid a base salary of $685,000 and is eligible for a cash bonus equivalent to 200 per cent of that. The board decided to award him less than half the bonus he could have had for its last fiscal year.
While the shortfall didn’t impact Ballmer’s pocketbook in a meaningful way, it was still an embarrassment for him at the time when the company was rolling out a dramatically revamped version of the Windows operating system.
The board attributed the lowered bonus to a 3 per cent decline in Windows sales over the year, as well as “the Windows division’s failure to provide a browser choice screen on certain Windows PCs in Europe as required by its 2009 commitment with the European Commission.”
The board also wasn’t happy with Microsoft’s “modest growth” in smartphone market share.
But it was clearly Windows that concerned them most. Sinofsky was the other executive penalised. He was awarded 60 per cent of his eligible bonus.
In September, European regulators were said to be working on an antitrust complaint against Microsoft. The company said that a technical error prevented some European users from being offered a choice of browsers.
Microsoft has already been fined 1.68 billion euros ($2.2 billion) in various EU antitrust probes.
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