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Microsoft board backs Ballmer

Bill Gates supports current CEO as more investors speak out

Insider reports suggest that the Microsoft board of directors has moved to back CEO Steve Ballmer, following public calls from investor David Einhorn for him to step down.

Although no public statement has been made sources speaking to news agency Reuters claims that the vote of confidence included backing from chairman, co-founder and majority shareholder Bill Gates.

"Bill Gates is a ruthless capitalist. If he wanted to, he'd walk Ballmer to the door himself," quotes Reuters of an anonymous shareholder.

"I thought the board was firmly behind Steve, and the only way Steve was going to leave was if Steve wanted to leave," said Eric Jackson of hedge fund Ironfire Capital, which sold its stake in Microsoft last year. "I don't see anybody else on the management team at Microsoft that I think would be much better than Ballmer," he added.

"This dissatisfaction with Ballmer, with the company, is more than baked into the stock," said Whitney Tilson of T2 Partners on CNBC. "When you've been the top dog so long, how do you become hungry again?"

As a result of Einhorn's initial comments Microsoft stock, which has been static for most of the decade, rose by 2 per cent. This was attributed to investors trying to taking advantage of what is now considered to be undervalued stock.

"Clearly, some people are calling for a change," said analyst Sid Parakh. "If you look at the financial performance, that's been fine. But I think the issue is broader than that.

"If you look at search, mobile, tablet, these are areas they should have been investing in, and they have - but they weren't able to get it right. If there was any reason to believe the board was not with Steve, it would be a different situation. But the board seems to be behind Steve."

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David Jenkins

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