Microsoft CEO hire expected early next year

Ballmer replacement shortlist whittled to handful; still includes Ford's Mulally
Microsoft CEO appointment expected early next year

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The leader of the committee leading Microsoft Corp's search for a new CEO has announced that he expects a final decision early next year, Reuters reported.

John Thompson, the board member that leads the four-man appointment committee, wrote in a company blog: "We're moving ahead well, and I expect we'll complete our work in the early part of 2014."

According to media reports, the committee, which includes Microsoft co-founder and chairman Bill Gates, has considered several high-profile names while compiling a shortlist of candidates to replace Steve Ballmer, who in August announced he would step down within 12 months.

"We identified over 100 possible candidates, talked with several dozen and then focused our energy intensely on a group of about 20 individuals," said Thompson in the blog. "As this group has narrowed, we've done deeper research and investigation, including with the full board."

One candidate who is said to remain on the shortlist is Ford Motor Co CEO Alan Mulally, regarded as a turnaround specialist and suggested by Microsoft investors concerned about Ballmer's strategy. However, sources close to Mulally have previously poured cold water on the idea that he would leave Ford.

Another name reported in connection with the role was that of Qualcomm CFO Steve Mollenkopf. However following a Bloomberg article on Thursday alleging Microsoft's interest in him, Qualcomm promptly appointed him CEO, announcing the decision on Friday.

One name not mentioned in recent reports is Stephen Elop. The former Nokia CEO was due to take over Microsoft's devices business after it absorbed Nokia's recently acquired property. Shortly thereafter, in November, his name was reported as being on Thompson's list, but further reports argued he was a less likely candidate than Mulally, who would be an ideal caretaker until an internal candidate could be groomed to fill Ballmer's shoes.

Internal candidates being considered include Satya Nadella, head of Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise group and former Skype president Tony Bates, who leads its Business Development and Strategy.

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