Microsoft investors want Mulally and CSC's Mike Lawrie to be the main candidates for the position

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is making his exit sometime in the next year, which means the search for a replacement has already begun -- and Alan Mulally and Mike Lawrie are at the top of the list. 

According to a new report from Reuters, a special committee of Microsoft's board is seriously considering either Ford Motor Co.'s CEO Alan Mulally or Computer Sciences Corp.'s (CSCs) CEO Mike Lawrie as the next Microsoft CEO. In fact, at least three of the top 20 investors in Microsoft are rooting for one of the two "turnaround experts."

Mulally and Lawrie are on a list of about 40 other potential CEO candidates, and the special committee has already started narrowing the choices down. It's not clear who the other 38 candidates are/were or how many remain a possibility.

There's a strong push for Mulally because of his expertise with turning Ford around. The No. 2 automaker had struggled during the late-2000s recession, but returned to profitability when Mulally took the reigns in 2006. It was also the only American major car manufacturer to avoid a bailout fund from the government.

Before Ford, Mulally worked with Boeing. He started as an engineer with the company back in 1969, and made his way up to executive vice president of Boeing and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCA). 

Ford CEO Alan Mulally

Aside from Mulally's experience with large American companies and turnarounds, he's close with Microsoft and Ballmer. Ford and Microsoft partnered up for Ford's SYNC system, and in 2009, Mulally delievered a new Ford Fusion directly to Ballmer as celebration of the one-millionth Ford with SYNC. 

Also in 2009, Ballmer wrote a profile on Mulally for TIME as part of "The 2009 TIME 100." Ballmer wrote about Mulally's various accomplishments with both Boeing and Ford, and credited him with the survival of the auto industry. 

"I'm rooting for him," wrote Ballmer in the TIME piece in 2009. "My support is both emotional and rational. My father worked at Ford for more than 30 years. On the business side, the auto industry is an important customer and partner for Microsoft, with a long track record of shared technological innovation."

Further cementing the bond between both CEOs is when Ballmer sought the advice of Mulally earlier this year for the restructuring plan for Microsoft. 

However, it's not clear if Mulally is going to take the reigns and turn Microsoft around as well. Under a succession plan at Ford that rolled out last November, Mulally is expected to remain CEO until at least the end of 2014. 

"There is no change from what we announced in November: Alan Mulally plans to continue to serve as Ford's president and CEO through at least 2014," said Ford spokesman Jay Cooney.

But some believe it's possible that Mulally would step down from Ford for a better opportunity. 

As for Lawrie, he is a seasoned IT veteran who was the mastermind behind the turnaround at UK-based Misys PLC, a leading global IT solutions provider to the financial services industry. Under his leadership, Misys saw significant increases in revenue growth and client satisfaction, improved operational margins and solid returns to shareholders. 

Lawrie was also executive chairman of Allscripts-Misys Healthcare Solutions, Inc., from October 2008 to August 2010, where he led many mergers that cemented the company's status as a prominent leader in healthcare IT solutions.

Lawrie became president and CEO of Computer Sciences Corp. in March 2012. 

CSC CEO Mike Lawrie

It's hard to say who will lead Microsoft during its time of need. While the company certainly remains profitable (it raked in $22 billion in profit last year), it could use some help in other areas. For starters, its online and mobile computing efforts do not make money, and its Bing search engine and other online businesses have lost almost $3 billion in the last two years alone. Earlier this year, Microsoft took a $900 million write-down on the value of unsold Surface tablets.

In addition, Windows 8 didn't receive the best reception after its October 2012 release (many criticized the new UI with live tiles and the lack of a Start button) and Windows Phone still can't seem to grab enough market share to compete with Apple or Samsung. 

While the decision to restructure Microsoft was helped by current CEO Steve Ballmer, it was announced last month that he would be retiring sometime in the next year. While he has said that he planned to retire himself, he's also made other statements that show he wasn't ready to leave so soon -- and that Microsoft's board may be pushing him out as part of the transition period. 

A bit of the restructuring plan was revealed yesterday. The plan, called "One Microsoft," mainly aims to bring the Windows Phone, PC and Xbox units closer together for a more seamless experience across multiple devices. This unified approach would make using multiple Microsoft devices easier for users who want a similar experience with details unique to each machine. 
Also, it's a push to make Microsoft a "devices and services" leader, and many company leaders are having their roles switched to meet the new target. For instance, Windows and Windows Phone head Terry Myerson will have at least seven direct reports under the new plan. They include leaders for development, test and program-management positions; those heading Microsoft's phone, tablet, PC, Xbox and service departments, and a person in charge of future special projects (such as smart watches).
Other leadership changes include putting Henry Sanders (who had worked with Myerson on Windows Phone) in head of development; having Joe Belfiore (also from the Windows Phone team) lead a group focused on phones, tablets and PCs; putting Marc Whitten in charge of the Xbox team, and allowing Chris Jones to continue heading services.

So who will take the CEO role? Mulally or Lawrie?

Source: Reuters

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