Microsoft's Search for a CEO to Replace Ballmer Down to a Handful of Candidates

Paul Lilly

Odds on favorites are Alan Mulally from Ford and Stephen Elop previously from Nokia

Though the decision didn't come easy, Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer recognized it was time to step down and let someone else navigate the company through whatever roads are ahead of it. As such, Ballmer last August announced he would retire within 12 months, agreeing to hand over the reins as soon as Microsoft found a replacement. That search has been ongoing and it now appears Microsoft has dwindled down its list of candidates.

According to Reuters and its "sources familiar with the matter," Microsoft's list of external candidates is now around five people. The two biggest names from that list are ones we've heard before -- Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally and former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop.

It's also being reported that there are at least three internal candidates, among them former Skype CEO Tony Bates who now serves as head of Microsoft's business development, and Satya Nadella who heads up the company's cloud and enterprise business. That's a total of about 8 people compared to an initial list of about 40 names.

Mulally and Elop are perhaps the two most interesting candidates at this point. Mulally has a background in turning around companies' fortunes, as he did with Boeing and Ford, and Elop left Microsoft to head Nokia before Microsoft ultimately purchased Nokia's mobile business, bringing Elop back on board in the process.

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