Steve Ballmer has sold all of his shares in Twitter — but not because he doesn’t believe in the future of the company — the former Microsoft CEO told CNBC and Bloomberg TV in interviews today at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Southern California.
Ballmer acquired a 4% stake in Twitter in the fall of 2015, which was as much as he owned of Microsoft at the time. He said in an interview with GeekWire earlier this year that he subsequently came to realize tech investing wasn’t fun for him, and he ultimately didn’t have the time or interest to engage with companies or put in the hours required to become a really good investor.
In his TV appearances today, he revealed that he has now completely divested his Twitter stake, except for what he may own as part of index funds.
“Financially, I’d guess you’d say I’m fortunate. I decided a) I’m not really excited as a profession to be an investor — great thing to do, but probably not for me — and b) the price looked pretty good,” he said on Bloomberg TV. “I still remain bullish about Twitter in the long run, whether it’s an acquisition or something else. I decided I was going to simplify my life.”
Ballmer noted that he has kept his Microsoft stake and told Bloomberg that he believes the Redmond company is well-positioned on data privacy issues impacting other tech companies. He said he remains bullish on Microsoft’s potential in the cloud.
“There are a number of privacy and data security issues,” he said. “They span geographies. And the willingness to engage with regulators globally — to be willing, on important matters, to go through litigation, which the company has done — that will be important for figuring out really what the framework is that allows the cloud to flourish commercially and globally.”
On CNBC, Ballmer was also asked about Google, a longtime nemesis during his tenure at Microsoft.
“I still believe that the … power of Google in Europe is out of control,” he said. “I think they should be regulated to permit competition. I thought that when I worked at Microsoft; I still believe it. Microsoft has backed off from that. That’s new leadership’s perspective. But I absolutely think there’s a problem, and the Europeans were on to an appropriate form of regulation.”
Google was fined a record $2.7 billion by European antitrust regulators last year.
In addition to his work as owner of the L.A. Clippers, Ballmer works on the Ballmer Group philanthropy with his wife, Connie Ballmer, and leads the USAFacts non-profit, which recently released its second annual report on the U.S. government and held a “shareholder meeting” for American taxpayers.