Charles Schwab: Bill Gates Needs to Return to Microsoft


Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting In New YorkA day after Steve Ballmer choked up at his final shareholder’s meeting as Microsoft CEO, the questions began anew: Should Bill Gates return to lead the company?

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Gates has repeatedly said he’s not interested. He noted at the investor meeting this week that he’s “met with a lot of CEO candidates,” but that it’s a complex role to fill.

Still, at Bloomberg’s Year Ahead: 2014 gathering of CEOs and other business leaders Wednesday, there were plenty of opinions on what Microsoft should do next.

In the bring-back-Gates camp: Charles Schwab, the founder of the eponymous financial services firm, who knows something about corporate comebacks. Schwab served as CEO of his brokerage firm from 1986 to 1997, before sharing responsibilities as co-CEO with David Pottruck for the next five years. He relinquished the reins in May 2003, when Pottruck took over as sole CEO.

It didn’t go well. In just 14 months, board members asked Schwab to return as CEO. He planned to stay for a year, but remained for four.

It’s a familiar story: A founder leaves a company, the company gradually gets off course, and the founder returns to help turn things around. Steve Jobs did it at Apple. Howard Schultz did it at Starbucks.

In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek senior editor Diane Brady, Schwab explained that it’s often necessary for founders to return during difficult times so they can re-wire their companies. “When you build up a culture,” he said, “there’s only one person who can knock it down.”

That’s why he’s advocating for Gates to take the CEO job again.

“It would behoove Gates to go back for at least a year,” Schwab said. “He’s the only guy who can really reshape the cultural aspects, because otherwise the organization will spit anybody out, anybody coming in.”

Not so fast, though. The key question is whether Gates is interested, and he’s not, said Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who has had conversations with Gates about his intentions. The two billionaires own Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts together.

Alwaleed said Wednesday that Gates plans to continue focusing on philanthropy. Warren Buffett, another billionaire and friend of Gates’s, told Bloomberg TV’s Betty Liu last month that there’s a “zero” chance Gates will return.

The front runner at the moment? Ford CEO Alan Mulally, who is being considered for a “caretaker” role, according to AllThingsD.

Readers: What’s your take? Do you think Gates should take over as Microsoft’s CEO, even for a short amount of time? Explain your reasoning in the comments section.

Photo: Getty Images

Babatunde Akinsola
Babatunde Akinsola
Babatunde Akinsola is aNaija247news' Southwest editor. He's based in Lagos and writes on the Yoruba Nation political issues, news and investigative reports

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