Microsoft Partners Not Crazy About Ford's Mulally As Next Likely CEO


Ford CEO Alan Mulally, credited with reversing the automaker's fortunes during his seven years at the helm, has emerged as the leading candidate to replace outgoing Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, AllThingsD reported last week.

Microsoft would have a tough time finding a stronger executive than Mulally, whose work at Ford is going to be featured in business school case studies for generations. Ford racked up a $12.6 billion net loss in 2006, the year he joined as CEO. Four years later, it reported $6.6 billion in profit.

But despite all that, several partners told CRN on Monday they don't believe Mulally is the right choice to lead Microsoft out of its current doldrums.

[Related: Microsoft's Ballmer Gives Tearful Farewell In Last Company Meeting]

Andrew Brust, CEO of Microsoft analyst firm Blue Badge Insights, New York, believes Microsoft is facing a different set of challenges than the ones Mulally tackled at Ford, particularly as they relate to culture and strategy.

"Mulally is not from the software technology world, and he’s not young, whereas Microsoft arguably needs someone with both of those qualities," Brust said in an email.

Given Microsoft's intense focus on the consumer market, it's unclear how Mulally's background would help it compete more effectively with the likes of Google and Apple, partners told CRN.

Greg Frankenfield, CEO of Magenic, a Minneapolis-based Microsoft partner, would like to see Microsoft appoint a CEO with "technical vision and a deep understanding of the consumer marketplace."

"Microsoft needs to rebuild its culture before it can retool and rebuild its various businesses," Frankenfield told CRN. "It is increasingly bureaucratic and inward focused, and that change has to come from the top."

Jeff Middleton, a Microsoft MVP (Most Valued Professional) partner based in Metairie, La., said Microsoft needs to bring in a CEO with the ability to connect with consumers.

"Microsoft is losing a battle to be hip, innovative, nimble and open to feedback and creative response," Middleton said in an email. "There's nothing about Mulally or Ford that strikes me as relevant to Microsoft's situation."

Despite partners' reservations, there are signs that Mulally could end up being the pick. As reported by AllThingsD, Mulally advised Ballmer on Microsoft's recent reorganization, and as former CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, he's keen on returning to the Seattle region.

Microsoft's top investors are also eager to hire a CEO with experience turning around companies and have identified Mulally and CSC CEO Mike Lawrie as candidates, Reuters reported earlier this month.

Mulally is also an outsider and could bring the sort of fresh perspective Microsoft needs, Brust said.

PUBLISHED SEPT. 30, 2013