Ballmer was born in Detroit, the son of Beatrice Dworkin and Frederic Henry Ballmer, a manager at the Ford Motor Company. His father was a Swiss immigrant and his American mother was Jewish. He grew up in the community of Farmington Hills, Michigan. In 1973, he attended college prep and engineering classes at Lawrence Technological University and graduated from Detroit Country Day School, a private college preparatory school in Beverly Hills, Michigan, with a perfect score of 800 on the mathematical section of the SAT. He now sits on the school’s board of directors. In 1977, he graduated from Harvard University with an A.B. in mathematics and economics.
At college, Ballmer managed the football team, worked on The Harvard Crimson newspaper as well as the Harvard Advocate, and lived down the hall from fellow sophomore Bill Gates. He then worked for two years as an assistant product manager at Procter & Gamble, where he shared an office with Jeffrey R. Immelt, who later became CEO of General Electric. In 1980, he dropped out of the Stanford Graduate School of Business to join Microsoft.
Steve Ballmer joined Microsoft on June 11, 1980, and became Microsoft’s 30th employee, the first business manager hired by Gates.
Ballmer was initially offered a salary of $50,000 as well as a percentage of ownership of the company. When Microsoft was incorporated in 1981, Ballmer owned 8 percent of the company. In 2003, Ballmer sold 8.3% of his shareholdings, leaving him with a 4% stake in the company. The same year, Ballmer replaced Microsoft’s employee stock options program.
During the subsequent 20 years, Ballmer headed several Microsoft divisions, including operations, operating systems development, and sales and support. From February 1992 onwards he was Executive Vice President, Sales and Support. He was then President of Microsoft from July 1998 to February 2001. Ballmer led Microsoft’s development of the .NET Framework.
In January 2000, Ballmer was officially named Chief Executive Officer. As CEO, Ballmer handled company finances, however Gates remained chairman of the board and still retained control of the “technological vision” as chief software architect. Gates relinquished day-to-day activities when he stepped down as chief software architect in 2006, while staying on as chairman, and that gave Ballmer the autonomy needed to make major management changes at Microsoft.
In 2009, and for the first time since Bill Gates resigned from day-to-day management at Microsoft, Ballmer made the opening keynote at CES.
Under Ballmer’s tenure as CEO, Microsoft’s annual revenue surged from $25 billion to $70 billion, while its net income has increased 215 percent to $23 billion. Although these gains have come from the existing Windows and Office franchises, Ballmer also built new businesses such as the data centers division ($6.6 billion in profit for 2011) and the Xbox entertainment and devices division ($8.9 billion). In terms of leading their company’s total annual profit growth, Ballmer’s tenure at Microsoft (16.4 percent) has surpassed the performances of other well-known CEOs such as General Electric’s Jack Welch (11.2 percent) and IBM’s Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. (2 percent).
Since Bill Gates’ retirement, Ballmer oversaw a “dramatic shift away from the company’s PC-first heritage”, replacing most major division heads in order to break down the “talent-hoarding fiefdoms”, and Businessweek said that the company now had “arguably now has the best product lineup in its history”. Ballmer has been instrumental in driving Microsoft’s cloud computing strategy, with acquisitions such as Skype. In addition, a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll found that just under half of 853 respondents between the age of 18 and 29 believed that Microsoft is cooler now than it was last year, due to a coordinated marketing blitz around its Surface tablets advertising its Metro mobile interface.
However, Ballmer has attracted criticism for Microsoft’s share price which has been stagnant during his tenure, as well as failing to capitalize on several new consumer technologies. In May 2012, hedge fund manager David Einhorn called on Ballmer to step down as CEO of Microsoft. “His continued presence is the biggest overhang on Microsoft’s stock,” Einhorn said in reference to Ballmer. In a May 2012 column in Forbes magazine, Adam Hartung described Ballmer as “the worst CEO of a large publicly traded American company”, saying he had “steered Microsoft out of some of the fastest growing and most lucrative tech markets (mobile music, handsets and tablets)”.
On June 19, 2012 Ballmer revealed Microsoft’s new tablet device called Microsoft Surface at an event held in Hollywood, Los Angeles.
There has been a list of potential successors to Ballmer as Microsoft CEO, however all have departed the company: Jim Allchin, Brad Silverberg, Paul Maritz, Nathan Myhrvold, Greg Maffei, Pete Higgins, Jeff Raikes, J. Allard, Robbie Bach, Bill Veghte, Ray Ozzie, Bob Muglia and Steve Sinofsky.
Ballmer has also served as director of Accenture Ltd. and a general partner of Accenture SCA since October 2001.
Ballmer is known for his energetic and exuberant persona, which is meant to motivate employees and partners. His flamboyant stage appearances at Microsoft events are widely circulated on the Internet as viral videos. One widely circulated video, captured at a developers’ conference, features a perspiring Ballmer chanting the word “developers”.
Bill Gates Steps Down
The Wall Street Journal has reported that there was tension surrounding the 2000 transition of authority from Bill Gates to Ballmer. Things became so bitter that, on one occasion, Gates stormed out of a meeting in a huff after a shouting match in which Ballmer jumped to the defense of several colleagues, according to an individual present at the time. After the exchange, Ballmer seemed “remorseful”, the person said. Once Gates leaves, “I’m not going to need him for anything. That’s the principle,” Ballmer said. “Use him, yes, need him, no.”
On Competing Companies And Software
Speaking at a conference in NYC in 2009, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer criticized Apple’s pricing, saying; ‘Now I think the tide has turned back the other direction (against Apple),’ Ballmer said. ‘The economy is helpful. Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment — same piece of hardware — paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that’s a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be.’
Free and Open Source Software
He has referred to the free software Linux kernel as a “cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches.” Ballmer used the notion of “viral” licensing terms to express his concern over the fact that the GNU General Public License (GPL) employed by such software requires that all derivative software be under the GPL or a compatible license.
In 2005, Mark Lucovsky alleged in a sworn statement to a Washington state court that Ballmer became enraged upon hearing that Lucovsky was about to leave Microsoft for Google, picked up his chair, and threw it across his office, and that, referring to Google CEO Eric Schmidt (who previously worked for competitors Sun and Novell), Ballmer vowed to “kill Google” in an expletive-laden tirade then resumed trying to persuade Lucovsky to stay at Microsoft. Ballmer has described Lucovsky’s account of the incident as a “gross exaggeration of what actually took place”.
During the 2011 Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, he said: “You don’t need to be a computer scientist to use a Windows Phone and you do to use an Android phone … It is hard for me to be excited about the Android phones.”
Steve Ballmer taking a seat at the KeyArena to watch the Seattle SuperSonics
On March 6, 2008, Seattle’s mayor announced that a local ownership group involving Ballmer made a “game changing” commitment to invest $150 million in cash toward a $300 million renovation of KeyArena and were ready to purchase the Seattle SuperSonics in order to keep them in the City of Seattle. However, this initiative failed, and the Sonics have since relocated to Oklahoma City, now performing as Oklahoma City Thunder.
In June 2012, it was announced that Ballmer was an investor in Chris Hansen’s proposal to build a new arena in the SoDo neighborhood of Seattle and bring the Sonics back to Seattle.
On January 9, 2013, it was announced that Ballmer and Hansen were leading a group of investors in an attempt to purchase the Sacramento Kings from the Maloof family and relocate them to Seattle for an estimated $500 million.
Ballmer was the second person after Roberto Goizueta to become a billionaire in U.S. dollars based on stock options received as an employee of a corporation in which he was neither a founder nor a relative of a founder. Ballmer is the 44th richest person in the world according to Forbes, with an estimated wealth of $15.7 billion. While CEO of Microsoft in 2009, Ballmer earned a total compensation of $1,276,627 which included a base salary of $665,833 a cash bonus of $600,000, no stock or options, and other compensation of $10,794.
In 1990, he married Connie Snyder. They have three sons.