Microsoft investors call for Gates' departure
THREE of the top 20 investors in Microsoft are lobbying the board to press for Mr Bill Gates to step down as chairman of the software company he co-founded 38 years ago, according to sources.
While Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer has been under pressure for years to improve the company's performance and share price, this appears to be the first time that major shareholders are taking aim at Mr Gates, who remains one of the most respected and influential figures in technology.
There is no indication that Microsoft's board would heed the wishes of the three investors, who collectively hold more than 5 per cent of the company's stock, according to the sources.
They requested that the identity of the investors not be revealed because the discussions were private.
Mr Gates, 57, owns about 4.5 per cent of the US$277-billion (S$347-billion) company and is its largest individual shareholder.
The three investors are concerned that his role as chairman effectively blocks the adoption of new strategies and would limit the power of a new CEO to make substantial changes.
In particular, they pointed to his role on a special committee that is searching for Mr Ballmer's successor.
They are also worried that Mr Gates - who spends most of his time on his philanthropic Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation - wields power out of proportion to his declining shareholding.
The software mogul, who owned 49 per cent of Microsoft before it went public in 1986, sells about 80 million Microsoft shares a year under a pre-set plan, which, if continued, would leave him with no financial stake in the company by 2018.