Multiple reports this afternoon quote influential and controversial hedge fund manager David Einhorn, a longtime Microsoft shareholder, saying that it’s time for CEO Steve Ballmer to step aside and give someone else an opportunity to lead the company.

Einhorn, speaking at an investment conference in New York, said that Ballmer’s “continued presence is the biggest overhang on Microsoft’s stock,” according to a Reuters report. He called the Microsoft CEO “stuck in the past,” adds the New York Times, which offered this summary of Einhorn’s concluding remarks …

Mr. Einhorn concluded his speech by recalling his time as a student at Cornell University, playing a game of football. He said other students suggested that because of his height, he should play quarterback. But it quickly became clear he should stop, he said, and he appreciated the way the older students broke it to him.

They told him he’d had a chance, they had seen what he could do, and it was time to give someone else a try, he said.

He suggested the board of Microsoft offer the same directive to Mr. Ballmer.

Microsoft’s board, led by Ballmer’s longtime friend Bill Gates as chairman, hasn’t proven receptive to such suggestions in the past, to say the least. And Einhorn’s statements, at the Ira Sohn Conference, may further be undercut by a new study of fund managers’ 2010 recommendations at the conference that found him to be “the biggest loser by far,” according to one report.

The statement comes a day after Microsoft unveiled a plans for the next version of Windows Phone, due out this fall, its latest attempt to regain traction in the pivotal mobile market.

No comment from Microsoft.

UPDATE: Microsoft board backs Ballmer after hedge fund manager calls for CEO’s resignation

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  • Guest

    I want Bill Gates to come back and pull a Steve Jobs.  I would go back to MSFT if he would.

  • Anonymous

    Can’t this manager come up with something novel?  Others have been calling for that for years.  Zzzzzzzzzzz.  

  • exmsft

    I like Steve Ballmer. I’ve had delightful conversations with him and I think, despite the naysayers, that he is a great guy. If I were throwing a party of Microsoft execs, I’d want to make sure he was there. And he’s a fantastic cheerleader.

    BUT, I think that Microsoft’s entire culture of management, from Ballmer on down, is broken. The success that Microsoft has had in the Ballmer era is largely in spite of the culture, not because of it.

    The biggest problem with getting rid of Ballmer is the heir apparents. If you think Ballmer is bad, try Sinofsky. He’d make the trains run on time …

    • Kevin Morrill

      I think you hit on the key point: who are you going to get instead.  The whole notion that Gates should come back ignores the fact he’s supported Ballmer’s ideas the whole way and that Ballmer himself was a key part of MS’s success during its younger days–serving as the first Windows development manager.  Few people realize Ballmer has added more to net incoming than Gates ever did as CEO.  Net income has more than doubled under his term as CEO.  It’s just that when you start with a ridiculously big company it’s difficult to grow it at >15% year over year like the nearly bankrupt Apple or the young Google.

      • victor

        Even more reason to break the company up.

      • Guest

        Apple is bigger than MS now and growing at something like 70% with no slowdown in sight. The “it’s hard to grow a big company” excuse has gotten really old and has been demonstrated to be false by Apple. Regardless, as Victor says, if you can’t grow fast because of your size, then break it apart.

        Ballmer and the BOD are meant to running the company on behalf of the owners. Instead, they’ve treated it like a private company where they’re not accountable to shareholders. MS is growing slowly primarily because almost every single one of Ballmer’s numerous and incredibly expensive big bets havefailed to pay off.

        The best thing that would come from Ballmer’s ouster is an entire management chain that realized they’re accountable externally for the company’s overall results, instead of just focusing on acing internal politics.

    • Guest

      “If you think Ballmer is bad, try Sinofsky. He’d make the trains run on time …”
      Which in and of itself would be a huge improvement.

    • Guest

      Likability != suitability

    • Guest

      “If you think Ballmer is bad, try Sinofsky. He’d make the trains run on time …”

      Which would be preferable to Ballmer arguing “it’s still the early days of transportation, and while Apple and Google may all have trains today and be transporting million of commuters, ours will be coming in just a few short years and will be super fantastic”.    

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