News Column

5 things to know about Steve Ballmer

May 30, 2014

By Dan Beucke, The Orange County Register



May 30--1. He's very rich.

There are lots more billions where those came from. Ballmer, who was CEO of software maker Microsoft Corp. until February, is worth $19 billion, according to Bloomberg. That makes him the 39th richest person in the world. The Harvard grad, who majored in math, is still Microsoft's largest individual stockholder, with more shares than co-founder Bill Gates.

2. He may not stay in his courtside seat.

No executive was more enthusiastic about his company. Former sales chief Ballmer was known to high-five customers at Microsoft Store openings, and he gained the nickname "Monkey Boy" in tech circles for an over-the-top leaping, whooping performance at a sales presentation. (How enthusiastic? Google "Steve Ballmer goes crazy.") That competitive streak sometimes led him astray, as when Ballmer gave Apple's iPhone "no chance" of gaining prominence. Oops.

3. He's got thick skin.

In his 14 years as CEO, Ballmer tripled Microsoft's revenues. But he also took a lot of heat for failed products such as the Zune music player and the Vista software program, and for an undelivered promise to "win the Web." In his biography, Apple's Steve Jobs said of Ballmer's Microsoft, "They've become mostly irrelevant." Bad referee calls probably won't carry quite the same sting.

4. He's long wanted into the NBA.

Ballmer, according to the Seattle Times, is an avid basketball fan who was a regular at hometown Seattle SuperSonics games. He was part of an investor group that tried to keep the Sonics from relocating to Oklahoma City in 2008 (where they're now known as the Thunder). Two years ago, Ballmer was part of another effort to build a new arena and lure an NBA team to town. But apparently he has no plans to move the Clippers, telling the Wall Street Journal earlier this month that to do so would be "value destructive." Yes, he likes those business-school terms.

5. This sets up a Windows series.

Until Ballmer arrives, the richest NBA owner is Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, worth an estimated $15.5 billion. Allen, who left active Microsoft management in the early 1980s, owns the Portland Trail Blazers. The Clippers and Blazers are both in the Western Conference and they faced off three times last season. Allen is much more low-key than Ballmer; if his Blazers beat Ballmer's Clippers, don't expect a "Monkey Boy" performance.

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(c)2014 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)

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Source: Orange County Register (CA)


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