Bill Gates explains what Microsoft needs in a new CEO

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So much has been reported about Microsoft’s CEO search via anonymous sources in recent weeks and months. So how about hearing from one of the people actually involved in the process?

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates opened Microsoft’s annual shareholders meeting in Bellevue, Wash., this morning by talking about the opportunities ahead for Microsoft — saying he believes “the digital revolution is just at the beginning,” and citing opportunities for advances in areas including reading, writing, communications and collaboration.

Then he turned to the topic of Microsoft’s future, and the CEO search as part of that. Here’s our transcript of his comments.

We’ve got a lot of assets as a company to pursue these things. Some of them are longstanding assets. A lot are things that are new or new to the company. And that’s the foundation that we can build our future on. At the same time, we have a process going on with the board of directors to select Steve’s successor as CEO. And the board established a search committee, so I thought I’d say a few things about what’s going on with that process. I’m a member of the committee, working closely with the lead, John Thompson, as well as the two other members Chuck Nosky and Steve Luczo. Together with the board, including Steve, we’ve been doing a lot of meetings with both internal and external candidates. And we’re pleased with the progress. In fact, we met last night and talked a lot about where we are.

As John Thompson said at the Financial Analyst Meeting in September, it’s a complex role to fill. A lot of different skills, experience and capabilities that we need. It’s a complex business that the new CEO will have to lead, and they’ll have to drive across fundamental transitions to create new growth and attract and manage top talent.  We’ll have to build on our strengths while addressing areas that we’ve got weaknesses or challenges. The person has to have a lot of comfort in leading a highly technical organization, and have an ability to work with our top technical talent to seize the opportunities.

We’re looking at a number of candidates, and I’m not going to give a timeline today, but we’re pleased with our progress, and feel we’re going through the process that will get the best person for the job.

As has been, this is also a milestone for Steve. This is his last shareholder meeting as CEO. We’ll have time later for goodbyes, but I do want to recognize and thank Steve for the leadership he’s shown over the 33 years, including the past 13 as CEO. In our entire 38 year history, we’ve had only two CEOs. That alone makes us quite unusual. Steve and I really appreciated all the joys and challenges that came with being CEO. A real privilege to lead the incredibly talented group of employees we have. It’s a privilege to work on the technology that’s changed the world, and it’s been exciting to deal with the problems that occupy the CEO’s day.

We clearly share two other things, as well. We’ve got a commitment to make sure the next CEO is the right person, for the right time, for the company we both love. (Chokes up and pauses). We share a commitment that Microsoft will succeed as a company that makes the world a better place. So thank you for your support.

I’m hard-pressed to find any tea leaves in there, or hints about which candidate the board is leaning toward, and that was no doubt part of Gates’ goal.

But it is notable that he stressed both the business and technical demands of the position, which seems to go against speculation that Microsoft could bring in two people (such as Alan Mulally and Paul Maritz) to run the company as a two-person team.

Gates left the stage after his remarks, and sat quietly with other Microsoft board members for the remainder of the meeting, including the shareholder Q&A session.


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