Who is Steve Ballmer?

Steve Ballmer was chief executive officer of Microsoft (MSFT) from 2000 to 2014 and is the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team. After taking over from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Ballmer led the expansion into search by releasing Bing and also acquired internet telephony provider Skype.

Key Takeaways

  • Steve Ballmer is the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team.
  • He is most well known as chief executive of Microsoft, a role he retired from in 2014.
  • Ballmer is one of the world's richest people, estimated by Forbes to be worth $81.5 billion as of February 2021.

Steve Ballmer Biography and Career

Steve Ballmer was born on March 24, 1956, in Detroit and grew up in Farmington Hills, Michigan. He graduated from Harvard University in 1977 with a bachelor's degree in applied mathematics and economics. He worked two years at Procter and Gamble (PG) and attended the Stanford Graduate School of Business before joining Microsoft.

Bill Gates hired Ballmer in 1980 as Microsoft's first business manager. Ballmer was the 30th employee to be hired at Microsoft. He was executive vice president of sales between 1992 and 1998. He became president in 1998 and CEO in 2000.

CEO of Microsoft

His tenure as CEO was controversial. On one hand, the business remained healthy and the company continued to grow. Top line revenue grew from $22.95 billion in 2000 to $86.83 billion in 2014. Net income figures likewise grew, from $9.42 billion to $22 billion over the same period of time. On the other hand, Microsoft seemed to miss all of the important trends that marked the 21st century.

On his watch, Microsoft went from being the most expensive technology company in the world to an also-ran after Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG) and Facebook (FB). In those categoriesmobile devices, search and social mediaMicrosoft was slow to adapt. Google Chair Eric Schmidt said of Microsoft in 2012: "They're a well-run company, but they haven't been able to bring state-of-the-art products into the fields we're talking about."

Critics accused Ballmer of focusing too much on sales and not enough on innovation. Adam Hartung said in Forbes in 2012:

Microsoft is a PC company, nothing more, as demand for PCs shifts to mobile. Years late to market, [Ballmer] has bet the company on Windows 8 as well as the future of Dell, HP, Nokia and others. An insane bet for any CEO and one that would have been avoided entirely had the Microsoft Board replaced Mr. Ballmer years ago with a CEO that understands the fast pace of technology shifts and would have kept Microsoft current with market trends.

Microsoft's share price reflected the company's lack of growth. Microsoft shares opened 2002 at around $22 per share and was barely higher by 2013an entire decade of zero equity growth.

During this period, Microsoft launched several products intended to catch up with rivals that only underscored its inability to compete. The most famous example of this was the Zune digital media player, launched in November 2006 to compete with Apple's iPod. Though the Zune was not an inferior product, consumers perceived the Zune as a joke instead of a successful competitor.

On August 23, 2013, Ballmer announced he would retire as CEO within 12 months upon the completion of a process to choose his successor. Satya Nadella, who had been executive vice president in Microsoft's cloud and enterprise group, was appointed board director and CEO on February 4, 2014. Shares of Microsoft have climbed more than sevenfold since Nadella took the helm.

After Microsoft

Ballmer has devoted time and money to charity since his retirement. In 2017, he founded USAFacts, a non-profit organization that aims to make it easier for people to understand U.S. government revenue and spending.

In 2008, Time named him one of the world's 100 most influential people. The magazine also said Ballmer was one of the 40 most influential minds in technology in 2013. Ballmer served as a board director at Accenture (ACN) between 2001 and 2006.

Steve Ballmer Net Worth

Forbes estimated Ballmer's net worth to be $81.5 billion as of February 2021. This made him the sixth richest person in the world. Forbes also ranked Ballmer as the 46th most powerful person in the world in 2012.