Hans Vestberg, Ericsson CEO.

The latest Microsoft CEO candidate to emerge from the rumor mill is Hans Vestberg, the CEO of telecom company Ericsson, who was reported by Bloomberg News last night to be among the possible being considered to succeed Steve Ballmer.

Without any official confirmation from anyone involved in the process, it’s hard to know how seriously to take these leaks. But the pattern that’s starting to emerge is interesting. The names being floated are no longer high-profile wild cards like Ford’s Alan Mulally (who has officially bowed out), but instead tech executives who have experienced success in more understated ways.

Past examples include Steve Mollenkopf of Qualcomm, who was promptly named that company’s next CEO after his name emerged on the Microsoft short list.

Vestberg is an Ericsson lifer, having joined in 1988. His credentials a stint as CFO, and a 19 percent increase in Ericsson’s share price under his tenure as CEO. The company has $35 billion in annual revenue. He also oversaw the unwinding of the Sony Ericsson joint venture — experience that might be welcomed by shareholders hoping to see Microsoft shed some of its businesses. He also loves sports and is chairman of the Swedish Handball Association.

“From a working point of view I have spent all of my life at Ericsson,” he says in a video on the company’s site. “I will never regret that because it’s a fantastic company. I worked in basically all areas of the company except R&D. Supply, logistics, finance, sales, marketing, business units, marketing units.”

Internal candidates still in the mix include Microsoft cloud-computing leader Satya Nadella and Steven Elop, the former Nokia CEO, who is returning to Microsoft as part of the Nokia acquisition.

At this point, my best estimate is that we’ll get an announcement from the company sometime in February.

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  • Christopher Budd

    I have to say, the way this “search” has been executed leaves me decidedly pessimistic about things. From the outside it’s seemed as long and drawn out as electing a new Pope and fraught with a similar amount of behind-the-scenes intrigue and plotting.

    The lack of clear, decisive action and the rumors about possible meddling by the previous CEOs in the future don’t look likely to land a Lou Gerstner-style turnaround specialist in the drivers seat. Even the rumors about Windows 9 giving people what they want, the start menu, feel less like clear, wise, decisive leadership and more like muddled, confused, leadership-by committee.

    Sadly Microsoft’s leadership seems stuck and flipping between muddled, confused, leadership-by-committee, or decisive leadership that is tone-dear, oblivious and hurtles at full speed down dead end alleys (e.g.Windows 8).

    So what we’re seeing in the search for the next CEO seems to show those same dynamics at work still. Meaning the direction under the next CEO will continue to suffer from these two problems.

    The best thing for Microsoft shareholders would be for Gates and Ballmer to step down from the board and clear the decks for radical, bold new leadership.

    • RGC67

      You can’t judge the process by the speculation. Many of the rumors have come from Investment Groups/Hedge Funds hoping to manipulate public interest in the stock. Ballmer gave his 12 month notice in July, and we are just half way through that. There aren’t more than a couple of serious candidate who can run a company like this and they are right to take their time to choose.

  • mahadragon

    So what is the board’s direction? The title is catchy but the author provides nothing of substance to explain the title of this article. So the new candidate is not as “high flying” as the previous candidates. Maybe it’s because all the high profile candidates have been taken. So that’s all you have on the matter? I feel like I wasted my time reading this.

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