A prominent analyst says that when Steve Ballmer leaves as Microsoft CEO, he may also quit the board and sell all of his shares in Microsoft. Is there any truth to that, or is it purely wishful thinking?
The claim was made by Nomura Securities analyst Rick Sherlund, who has been critical of Ballmer for quite some time, long before he announced his retirement. In Sherlund's most recent research note, he wrote:
"Steve Ballmer may decide to leave the board, and Microsoft might consider repurchasing his $12B share position."
Sherlund gave no explanation of why he believes that.
It's hard to conceive that it's true. Ballmer's entire life and ego is tied to Microsoft, and it's hard to imagine that he would essentially abandon the company he helped build. He owns four percent of Microsoft, second only to Bill Gates' 4.5 percent. Gates sells stock every year, and at some point, Ballmer will become Microsoft's biggest shareholder. Why would he want to give up that influence?
He won't.In his retirement letter, he wrote:
"I cherish my Microsoft ownership, and look forward to continuing as one of Microsoft’s largest owners."
Beyond that, Kara Swisher at AllThingsD writes that "such a sale is highly unlikely, said many, many sources."
So it's likely that Sherlund's claim is wishful thinking. Many people would like all traces of Ballmer erased from Microsoft, so that the company can get fresh ideas and a fresh start, and Sherlund is likely among them. But the odds are that Ballmer's going to be a board member and big stockholder for years to come.