Microsoft Loses CEO Candidate

Steve Ballmer

Late last week, it was reported that Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) had added Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) Chief Operating Officer Steve Mollenkopf to its CEO wish list. But shortly after those reports came out, it was announced that Qualcomm had offered Mollenkopf its CEO spot, and Microsoft lost another contender for the position it desperately needs to fill soon.

As of March 14, Mollenkopf will replace Paul Jacobs as CEO of Qualcomm, the company announced on Friday, just after reports about Microsoft’s eye on Mollenkopf started circulating.

Other candidates still in the running include Microsoft executive Satya Nadella, Ford (NYSE:F) CEO Alan Mulally, and Nokia (NYSE:NOK) CEO Stephen Elop, who will be returning to work at Microsoft when the company’s acquisition of Nokia’s smartphone unit is completed in the first quarter of 2014.

Microsoft is looking to replace Steve Ballmer, who made the surprise announcement that he would retire in 12 months in August. Ballmer is only the second CEO Microsoft has had, after Bill Gates. Replacing Ballmer will be a pivotal moment for an iconic company that needs to execute a massive turnaround.

According to a report from Bloomberg, losing Mollenkopf shows the many difficulties Microsoft’s board is facing in the search for a new leader. Some other executives have declined the position as well, including eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) CEO John Donahoe and former VMware (NYSE:VMW) CEO Paul Maritz, people familiar with the matter said to the news service. Bloomberg reports that Mulally and Elop are no longer favorites for the position.

Choosing an internal candidate like Nadella would be less expensive, but many of Microsoft’s more experienced executives have left the company recently, leaving Microsoft’s internal candidates less experienced than the company would like. Nadella has only led a business unit since 2011.

Microsoft needs to find a candidate with experience leading a large company, who has the energy to execute a turnaround, and who can shake up the company’s business operations without upsetting the entire company’s corporate culture. Last week, turnaround expert and current chair of American International Group (NYSE:AIG) Steve Miller said in an interview with Bloomberg TV that Microsoft should look to J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP) in terms of what not to do in picking a new leader. J.C. Penney’s own drastic turnaround efforts resulted in disaster.

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