By Richi Jennings. May 26, 2011.
A "star" hedge-fund is calling for the Microsoft (MSFT) board to give CEO Steve Ballmer the old heave-ho. Greenlight Capital president David Einhorn thinks Ballmer's replacement would rally the company's snoozing stock price. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers will miss all the sweaty developers-developers-developers gags.
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Bill Rigby, Svea Herbst, Edwin Chan spread the blame around:
Many ... high-profile investors ... have been privately critical of Ballmer, but Einhorn's remarks are the most pointed yet. ... Einhorn's Greenlight Capital hedge fund has been a recent buyer of Microsoft ... at under 10 times expected earnings [it] is regarded by many as undervalued.
Speaking at the annual Ira Sohn ... Conference in New York ... Einhorn said it was time for Ballmer ... "to give someone else a chance. ... His continued presence is the biggest overhang on Microsoft's stock."
...Einhorn ... first rose to prominence for making a prescient call on Lehman Brothers ... before the bank's subsequent collapse.
Azam Ahmed adds aspects and angles:
Mr. Einhorn, a long-time Microsoft shareholder, said ... the company had floundered under Mr. Ballmer ... missing major opportunities ... to compete with Apple and wasting money on ill-conceived mergers and acquisitions.
...Known for his often controversial statements and ideas ... he did not disappoint those hoping for sparks to fly. ... Ballmer's ... children are not allowed to use Google or iPods, which ... meant he was out of touch and stuck in the past. ... Einhorn also attacked [Bing] as a sinkhole.
Nick Eaton elaborates in Seattle:
Its the latest ... high-profile shot against the Microsoft chief executive. ... Calls for Ballmers head have been increasing ... for a long time.
Hes under mounting pressure to keep Microsoft relevant in the age of iPhones, iPads and Web services. ... And hes not doing a great job. ... IBM perhaps the turtle to Redmonds hare is inching past Microsoft in market capitalization.
...Microsoft stock jumped ... in after-hours trading.
But Courtney Comstock and Katya Wachtel cut to the chase:
Einhorn's message for Microsoft: "Ballmer ... is ruining your stock. ... [He's] stuck in the past and is at best a caretaker at Microsoft. ... Microsoft wastes millions in R&D."
..."It's time for Microsoft to tell Steve Ballmer to go."
Meanwhile, Nick Farrell wonders why it's taken so long:
Investors ... have been moaning privately about how the outfit is stuck in a rut, but ... it is the first time that one ... has publicly called for Ballmer's scalp.
...Perhaps they fear ... being locked in a room while Ballmer quietly explains his policies to them.
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Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. He's the creator and main author of Computerworld's IT Blogwatch -- for which he has won American Society of Business Publication Editors and Jesse H. Neal awards on behalf of Computerworld. He also writes The Long View for IDG Enterprise. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, you can follow him as @richi on Twitter, pretend to be richij's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also read Richi's full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.