Bing king Satya Nadella tipped to replace Steve Ballmer as Microsoft boss, Bill Gates could stand down as chairman

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates could be asked to step aside from his role as chairman, as the executive vice president of Microsoft’s cloud and enterprise group firms up as a surprise lead candidate for chief executive.

Both Reuters and Bloomberg report Satya Nadella, who currently oversees Microsoft’s cloud services division, including its Bing search engine, has now emerged as the leading candidate to replace outgoing chief executive Steve Ballmer.

Nadella is one of three internal candidates believed to be in the running for the position, alongside former Nokia chief executive Stephen Elop and business development chief Tony Bates.

The king of Bing reportedly emerged as the top candidate after the leading external candidate, Ford Motor Company chief executive Alan Mulally, took himself off the list of potential candidates for the position.

According to the reports, Nadella has asked Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates to stand aside as chairman in order to take a more hands-on technical role.

In August of last year, Elop emerged as an early favourite for the position, with bookmakers offering 5-to-1 odds of him taking the helm of the tech giant after outgoing chief Ballmer announced his resignation.

However, Elop was also criticised by some analysts, who point out Nokia suffered a 27% year-on-year slump during the second quarter of 2013, with an overall quarterly loss of €115 million ($A190 million), before the company was eventually being taken over by Microsoft.

In mid-September, at least three of Microsoft’s top 20 shareholders urged the company to consider turnaround experts as a potential replacement to outgoing chief executive Steve Ballmer.

Turnaround experts including Mulally and Mike Lawrie, the boss of IT services firm Computer Sciences Corp, were recommended by the shareholders as potential candidates for the position.

By November, sources within the company believed Mulally had firmed as the favourite for the position, with a leaked internal memo calling for a candidate with “[An] extensive track record in managing complex, global organizations within a fast-paced and highly competitive market sector; track record of delivering top and bottom line results.”

The company is expecting to announce its new chief executive in the coming weeks.

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