A group of Microsoft investors are reported to be privately lobbying for company founder Bill Gates to step down as chairman.
The story on Reuters cites a number of anonymous sources who claim that three of the company’s top twenty investors are asking the board to press for Gate’s retirement.
This comes soon after co-founder Steve Ballmer announced his retirement, giving Microsoft one year to find a new CEO.
The investors see Ballmer’s retirement as a chance to bring change and innovation to the company – something they believe is hindered by the notoriously stubborn presence of Gates.
Of particular interest is Gate’s role on the special committee searching for Ballmer’s replacement.
The sources say there’s no indication the board would give in, though the investors are said to hold more than five percent of Microsoft shares.
Gates owns 4.5 percent of the company, a figure that began at 49 percent when Microsoft went public, and has been declining at 80 million shares a year under a pre-set deal that will leave him with no stake by 2018.
The investors claim that his current level of influence is greater than his holdings should dictate, and that his presence is tying the company to old strategies.
It has been generally understood that Gates has been less of a presence at Microsoft as the years go by since he handed the CEO position to Balmer in 2000.
These days the majority of his time is spent doing charity work with his wife at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.