Microsoft chief executive officer Steve Ballmer announced Friday that he will retire in the next 12 months, once a successor has been found
The 57-year-old Ballmer has led the world's biggest software company since 2000, when he succeeded Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
In a news release, Microsoft said “Ballmer will continue as CEO and will lead Microsoft through the next steps of its transformation to a devices and services company.”
That transformation was announced less than two months ago and was seen as an attempt by Microsoft to catch up with the innovations of Apple and Google.
“There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time,” Ballmer said in a statement. “We have embarked on a new strategy with a new organization. My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our company’s transformation to a devices and services company. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction.”
Microsoft’s board of directors has appointed a special committee to direct the process of finding a successor, saying they will consider internal and external candidates.
In recent years, Microsoft has struggled to keep up with rivals like Google and Apple as people moved from personal computers to smartphones and tablets. More recently, the newest version of the company’s cornerstone product, Windows, was received with little enthusiasm.
The news of Ballmer’s retirement sent Microsoft shares up 9 percent initially.
Ballmer and Gates first met in 1973 when they lived down the hall from each other in a Harvard University dormitory. Ballmer joined Microsoft in 1980, led several of its divisions over the last three decades and became one of Gates’ chief advisers before succeeding him.
Bloomberg News says Ballmer is the 47th richest person in the world, with a $16 billion fortune.