‘The next CEO is the right person for the right time for the company we both love’

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates choked up while reading from prepared remarks during Steve Ballmer’s final shareholders meeting as Chief Executive.

The co-founder of the software giant said progress was being made to find Mr. Ballmer’s replacement, and he thanked him for serving as CEO for the last 13 years. Only Mr. Gates and Mr. Ballmer have led Microsoft Corp. since its founding in 1975.

Mr. Gates grew emotional while saying that both he and Mr. Ballmer are committed to making sure “that the next CEO is the right person for the right time for the company we both love.”

Mr. Ballmer, who said in August that he would step down within 12 months, was mostly light-hearted at what he called a “unique and fun meeting.” One shareholder suggested a U.S. government cabinet post as an information technology secretary be created for Mr. Ballmer. The outgoing CEO replied that he didn’t think the job would make sense, adding “but thank you for trying to help me find work.”

Mr. Gates gave no timeline for a decision on a new CEO by the search committee. He said the new leader must have “a lot of comfort in leading a highly technical organisation and have an ability to work with our top technical talent to seize the opportunities.”

The company is considering internal and external candidates. Among the top internal candidates are reportedly enterprise cloud computing executive Satya Nadella, business development executive and former Skype CEO Tony Bates and Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner. External candidates reportedly include former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop and Ford CEO Alan Mulally, a long time Mr. Ballmer friend.

Microsoft representatives have declined to comment on the candidates being considered.

The company, based in Redmond, Washington, said Tuesday that all of its proposals were approved. Board nominees, including Mr. Ballmer and Mr. Gates, were re-elected with each nominee backed by more than 90 per cent of the votes cast.

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