Speculation is growing that Ford CEO Alan Mulally is not just in the running for the CEO position at Microsoft, but has become the frontrunner among all candidates, both internal and external.
The reports come from All Things D, which has a better track record than, say, DigiTimes (then again, a dart board could be more accurate than DigiTimes, which is why I hate to cite them). Anyway, Kara Swisher reports that Mulally didn't initially want the job, but has warmed to it.
One reason, which I did note in my recent blog post on him, is that Mulally was a top executive at Boeing for years and has connections to the Seattle area. He maintains a home in the area and has reportedly long wanted to return there. Seattle or Detroit? That's an easy choice to make.
Now for the interesting twist: Reuters reported earlier this month that the Ford board had given Mulally the option to step down earlier from his position than is specified in his contract. There was speculation he might take a position in the Obama administration, but really, who would sign on now to an administration with three years left, to say nothing of what a mess it is?
Nokia CEO and former Microsoft executive Stephen Elop has remained a top candidate, but interest has shifted toward Mulally because of his experience turning around a faltering company. Mulally has that record at Ford. No one can say Elop turned around Nokia. Many feel he made a god-awful mess.
The other top internal candidate is Tony Bates, who had previously served as CEO of Skype. There's a big difference between Skype and Microsoft, and to quote Ross Perot in the 1992 Presidential debates, just because you can run the corner grocery store doesn't mean you're ready to run a Wal-Mart (his only real shot at Bill Clinton).
Swisher also says that former Microsoft exec, VMware CEO and current Pivotal CEO Paul Maritz had been contacted.
And no, once again, Bill Gates is not coming back. The man himself has spoken.
Clearly, the end is nigh for Ballmer. He got teary-eyed speaking at the analyst and investor's day at Microsoft, knowing this would be his final one as CEO. He has said he would retire within 12 months from the announcement, which he made last month.