Three of Microsoft's top investors would like outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer to make a farewell mixtape for the company's founder and chairman Bill Gates, according to a Reuters report. The trio, who owns collectively about 5 percent of the company's stock, seem to be concerned that Gates's continued role as the chairman of the company board is basically like having a pope emeritus hanging around the Vatican. And unless Ballmer's successor turns out to have a Francis-like independent streak, the investors are worried that the company might fail to move beyond the Ballmer years with someone like Gates still wielding so much influence. Reuters explains:
The three investors are concerned that Gates' role as chairman effectively blocks the adoption of new strategies and would limit the power of a new chief executive to make substantial changes. In particular, they point to Gates' role on the special committee searching for Ballmer's successor.
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, for the record, currently holds about 4.5 percent of the company shares, and is still its biggest individual shareholder. But he's selling his shares off on a plan that would leave him with no stake in the company at all by 2018, meaning that status will eventually change. Gates founded Microsoft 38 years ago, and stepped down as CEO in 2000. From the Reuters report, it looks like the investors don't necessarily want Gates to leave the board altogether — they just don't want him running it anymore.
As the Verge notes, there three Microsoft investors were recently reported as lobbying for Ford's Alan Mulally to come in as the next CEO when Ballmer leaves within a year, something the board went on to consider. But those aren't necessarily the same three investors. In the near future, Microsoft wants to move away from just selling software and into the devices and hardware markets, and whoever becomes the new CEO would be part of that change-up for the company. Reuters, citing its sources, implies that some investors liked Gates better as a CEO, rather than a board chair. But there's no way Gates will step back into his old day-to-day role at the company.