Bill Gates has signaled that he doesn’t plan to return to Microsoft to replace Steve Ballmer as CEO, but he should reconsider coming back for “at least a year,” according to another well-known business leader who returned to his company in much the same way.
Charles Schwab, the investor and chairman of Charles Schwab Corp., made the comments at a Bloomberg conference in Chicago yesterday, according to a report by the news service. Schwab is speaking from experience, having returned to his company as CEO in 2004, at the request of the board, initially saying he would stay for one year but eventually remaining in the CEO’s role for an additional four.
Ultimately, the founder is in the best position to get a company’s culture back on track, Schwab contends.
“I think it would behoove Gates to go back for at least a year,” said Schwab, according to the Bloomberg report. “He’s the only guy who can really reshape the cultural aspects. Otherwise the organization will spit anybody out, anybody coming in.”
Ballmer announced earlier this year that he would be retiring within 12 months, kicking off a CEO search process. Speaking at Microsoft’s shareholders meeting this week, Gates acknowledged that it’s “a complex role to fill.”
“A lot of different skills, experience and capabilities that we need,” he said. “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.”
Yes, the Microsoft chairman fits that description, but don’t bet on Gates taking Schwab’s advice on this one. It’s looking increasingly possible that Microsoft will bring in an outsider as the next CEO.