Microsoft CEO choice is down to two very different candidates

Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford, and Satya Nadella, President of Microsoft’s Server and Tools business, are the last men standing according to sources. They couldn’t be any different. Although rumor has it that Mulally could be brought on to groom his successor, who could be Nadella.The Microsoft CEO search has been, to say the least, a little underwhelming. The net has not been cast wide, and it boils down to two candidates who had their champions from the very beginning: Alan Mulally was Steve Ballmer’s personal favorite, and Satya Nadella has the support of internal groups within Microsoft.

Both men are corporate guys through and through. Mulally spent most of his career at Boeing before taking over at Ford. Nadella has spent the bulk of his career at Microsoft. Each has risen from engineering management through the corporate ranks to become an executive. 

Mulally is reminiscent of Lou Gerstner, who took over at IBM at a crucial juncture, and helped reshape the company that many, at the time, felt had seen its best days. 

Nadella is an unknown quantity when it comes to evolutionary or revolutionary zeal, but he does understand Microsoft as well as anyone, and has been a part of a number of future seeking initiative, notably taking the company into the cloud.

Microsoft’s board has said they are looking for an CEO who has 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. Proven ability to lead a multi-billion dollar organization and large employee base,” according to sources.

That could apply to both these candidates. Whomever gets the nod, it has to happen before year end. The Microsoft Board is eager to find Steve Ballmer’s replacement and move things forward. 


Alan Mulally

Is the CEO and President of Ford Motor Co. and has been since September 1, 2006. Before joining Ford, Mulally was an Executive VP of The Boeing Company having joined the company initially in 1969, and risen through the ranks. During his time at Boeing, he had been President and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, and started out as an engineering manager and eventual VP of Engineering and GM of The 777 Program. 

Among his other notables:

  • Co-Chairman of the Washington Competitiveness Council
  • On the Advisory Boards of NASA, the University of Washington, the University of Kansas, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the U.S. Air Force Scientific Advisory Board. 
  • President of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’s Foundation.
  • President of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).
  • Named one of “The Best Leaders of 2005” by BusinessWeek magazine for streamlining Boeing’s production system and transforming its commercial airplanes product line. 
  • An honorary fellow of England’s Royal Aeronautical Society. 
  • Received four Laureates, Aviation Week & Space Technology’s top honor.
  • Recipient of the AIAA Reed Aeronautics award.
  • 1996 Engineer of the Year by Design News magazine. 
  • Chosen 1978 Industry Engineer of the Year by the National Society of Professional Engineers. 
  • Boeing’s 1978 Engineering Employee of the Year. 
  • MSc degrees in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from the University of Kansas.
  • Master’s in Management from MIT as a 1982 Alfred P. Sloan fellow.

Satya Nadella

Nadella is presently the President of the $19 billion Server & Tools business at Microsoft. He joined Microsoft in 1992. Previously, he was Executive VP of the Cloud & Enterprise group. His team was responsible for the “Cloud OS”, Microsoft’s next gen backend platform. 

At Microsoft he has been Senior VP of Research and Development for the Online Services Division and VP of the Microsoft Business Division.  

Before Microsoft, Nadella was at Sun Microsystems. 

Among his other honorifics:

  • Director of Riverbed Technology. 
  • Director of BravoSolution US.
  • Member of Advisory Board at Nirvaha. 
  • Director of Intelliprep Technologies. 
  • BSc in Electrical Engineering from Mangalore University.
  • MSc in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.
  • MBA from the University of Chicago.