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Microsoft investors want Ford's Mulally as the next CEO

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Alan Mulally
Alan Mulally

With longtime Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer having announced his plans to retire, everyone is hungry to find out who his successor will be. And while early rumors pointed to outgoing Nokia CEO (and longtime Microsoft exec) Stephen Elop, some prominent voices are pushing for the company to hire someone that specializes in turning around troubled firms. Reuters reports that "at least three" of Microsoft’s top 20 investors are urging its board to consider Ford CEO Alan Mulally and Computer Sciences CEO Mike Lawrie, citing "several" sources familiar with the matter.

The former Boeing engineer is staying quiet

Mulally is credited with helping to turn around the culture at Ford, reinvigorating tired brands like the Taurus. His name has been floated for the past week, and the Ford board is reportedly open to letting him step down as early as the beginning of 2014. But so far, the former Boeing engineer is staying quiet, telling Reuters that he is "absolutely focused on serving our Ford." It's also worth noting that Steve Ballmer holds Mulally in particularly high esteem, writing in 2009's Time 100 that "changing industries can upset even the most seasoned executive. Not Alan. He understands the fundamentals of business success as well as any business leader I know."

Lawrie, on the other hand, currently helms multinational IT services company Computer Sciences Corp., but worked for years as IBM’s global sales chief during CEO Lou Gerstner’s big turnaround in the 1990s and early 2000s. Reuters also points out Lawrie's successful turnaround of financial software company Misys Plc as evidence of his abilities.

With many Microsoft watchers relieved that the company is moving on after Ballmer’s often-disappointing tenure as CEO, hopes are high that it will be able to leverage its acquisition of Nokia to create a truly competitive alternative to entrenched mobile device makers Apple and Samsung. In fact, the company is aiming to triple its marketshare within the next five years. But in order to do it successfully, it needs to move quickly, putting the kind of decisive action exhibited by Mulally and Lawrie, at a premium.