Steve Ballmer with Alan Mulally
Steve Ballmer with Alan Mulally

It has been more than three months since Steve Ballmer announced his plans to retire as CEO of Microsoft, setting off a wave of speculation about who could fill his shoes. Could the board finally be nearing a decision?

Bloomberg reporters Dina Bass and Carol Hymowitz — citing “people familiar with the matter” — report today that Ford CEO Alan Mulally and Microsoft executive Satya Nadella are currently the frontrunners preferred by the board.

Other top candidates such as Tony Bates, the former Skype CEO who now serves as vice president of Microsoft’s Business Development and Evangelism group, and Stephen Elop, the former Nokia CEO who plans to join Microsoft in an executive role after the deal is completed, are “less likely to be offered the job,” Bloomberg reports.

The report also notes that situation remains “fluid” and other people are still being considered, though no other names were given.

Former Boeing executive Mulally, as we’ve noted in the past, would be a surprising yet bold choice. Mulally is largely credited with repositioning Ford, and he’s a longtime friend and confidant of Ballmer. But at age 68, he’s probably not a long-term CEO for the software giant.

Satya Nadella
Satya Nadella

Analyst Rick Sherlund last month suggested that Mulally and former Microsoft exec Paul Maritz should be brought in together.

“Mr. Mulally could mind the store and manage changes in the business while the exciting development work is managed by Mr. Maritz. We think that this is a match that could work, and that investors would obviously be thrilled if it came about,” Sherlund wrote.

Nadella, who joined Microsoft in 1992 after a stint at Sun Microsystems, was born in 1969 and now runs Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise group. Nadella was born in Hyderabad, India, and received a Master of Science in computer science from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Chicago.

Earlier this month, Reuters reported that Microsoft’s board had narrowed their field of choices to about five candidates. Now, has that field been narrowed to two?

Stay tuned, as Bloomberg also reports that the company is hoping to have its candidate chosen this year.

Previously on GeekWire: Bill Gates explains what Microsoft needs in a new CEO

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  • arrow2010

    Will Nadella sell off XBox & Bing?

  • Tom Leung

    If MSFT needs to compete with Apple, Google, Amazon, Salesforce, etc in a radically different and more game changing way, why would the two leading candidates come from Detroit and Redmond? They’re obviously super accomplished but it doesn’t feel like a transformational “kick Google and Apple’s butt” short list — almost implies staying the course IMO.

    • rayburt456

      Tom obviously doesn’t know Satya. He’s the man on so many levels. Mulally is like Apple hiring Sculley.

      • rick gregory

        Actually, I think that’s something Geekwire or another outlet could do that would be really interesting. For an outsider, you hear Nadella heads enterprise and think “ok, how does that help if they are moving on from Ballmer because he missed mobile and social”? Knowing more about Nadella would be interesting.

      • Guest

        Nah, hiring Ballmer was like Apple hiring Sculley.

  • Blah

    The fact that a 68 year old airplane industry and auto industry executive is potentially a leading contender for Microsoft’s CEO job says it all. The fact that Elop even made the contenders list after being a complete bust at Nokia says the same.

    • Guest

      Mulally would actually make sense from a business perspective. You need to remember that he was the head of both Boeing and Ford when they were/are at the top of their game. He left Boeing and Boeing has had nothing but issue after issue. He took over at Ford and made them hugely competitive with other auto makers again, pushing design and technology to the forefront. Another thing to keep in mind is that while he’s been on board at Ford, Ford has started to go away from using MSFT Sync and pushing their own SDK and API built on Android. As a leader I think he would know it’s the people you hire to work with you that build a company to do great things. Using another talking head from MSFT’s past won’t do that and Nokia is not exactly a company to be looking at for innovation at this point, they have gone the way of Blackberry.

      Time to shake things up a bit for MSFT and get them back to making great things and not catering to the biz-dev/marketing teams that drain its blood supply.

  • Ann

    Best thing MSFT can do is name Mulally CEO. Fingers crossed for you, Alan!

  • Sustainability_Head_Coach

    My money is on Satya also. He backed those that endured f-Bombs and bluster to try and deliver originality, performance and nextgen.

  • Robert

    Alan Mulally was executive vice president at Boeing, and was the CEO of Boeing’s Commercial Airplanes division until he moved to Ford (F) as CEO.

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