By Sandra Birungi
Microsoft investors are putting the company’s chairman under pressure to step down as its chairman.
The three investors calling for Gates’ resignation all hold more than 5 percent in the company’s stock according to sources. Sources requested that the identity of the investors be kept anonymous because the discussions were private.
Gates owns about 4.5 percent of the $277 billion company and is its largest individual shareholder. This is the first time that Gates is being put under pressure being one of the most respected and influential figures in technology. Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer has been under pressure for years to improve the company’s performance and share price however.
The investors reason that Gates’ role as chairman blocks the adoption of new strategies and would limit the power of a new chief executive to make substantial changes. In particular, they point to Gates’ role on the special committee searching for Ballmer’s successor. In addition, they are worried that Gates wields power out of proportion to his declining shareholding.
Before 1986, Gates owned 49 percent of Microsoft and today, he sells about 80 million Microsoft shares a year under a pre-set plan. If it is continued, Gates’ financial stake in the company will be lost by 2018. He lowered his profile at Microsoft after he handed the CEO role to Ballmer in 2000, giving up his day-to-day work there in 2008 to focus on the $38 billion Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.