Prominent Microsoft investors reportedly pushing for Gates to go

Steve Ballmer’s recent announcement regarding his imminent departure from Microsoft after 13 years as CEO may have pushed some investors into taking a closer look at the company’s set up, with three prominent shareholders reportedly calling for Bill Gates to step down as chairman.

People familiar with the matter told Reuters Tuesday the three unnamed investors are worried that Gates’ membership of the board “effectively blocks the adoption of new strategies and would limit the power of a new chief executive to make substantial changes.”

The investors are reported to be particularly concerned about Gates presence on the special committee looking for a new CEO to replace Ballmer when he steps down in the next 12 months.

While Gates’ share of the company currently stands at around 4.5 percent, the three investors reportedly calling for his departure collectively own about 5 percent of the $277 billion computer giant.

Reuter’s report adds, “They are also worried that Gates – who spends most of his time on his philanthropic foundation – wields power out of proportion to his declining shareholding.” Gates sells around 80 million Microsoft shares a year under a pre-arranged plan, a situation that will leave with him without any shares in the company come 2018.

There’s been some talk since Ballmer announced his retirement about whether Gates had a hand in the CEO’s departure. It’s been suggested that Ballmer wasn’t planning to leave quite so soon, and an internal email sent by Ballmer to employees in August made no mention Gates, a fact that puzzled some observers.

A source told AllThingsD at the time that Ballmer’s retirement announcement was “more sudden than was depicted by the company and was “neither planned nor as smooth as portrayed.”

Though Ballmer replaced Gates as CEO in 2000, the man who co-founded Microsoft back in 1975 continued in a full-time capacity until 2008. The three investors apparently calling for Gates’ to leave, however, evidently feel he exercises an unhealthily strong influence on the running of the company and would like to see that change.

With Microsoft facing a multitude of challenges in the face of a declining PC market, the shareholders calling for Gates’ departure appear keen to see the company make a fresh start, with a new chairman, as well as a new CEO, as the way forward.

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