Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to retire

Top executive at Xbox company will retire in the next 12 months; "Now is the right time," he says.

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Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will retire in the next 12 months, the company announced today. He will officially step down upon the completion of a process to choose his successor, the company said, though no front-runners were named.

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"There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time," Ballmer said in a statement. "We have embarked on a new strategy with a new organization and we have an amazing Senior Leadership Team. My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our company's transformation to a devices and services company. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction."

Ballmer is a longtime Microsoft employee and has served as its CEO since 2000. According to Forbes, his estimated net worth is $15.2 billion.

Microsoft's board of directors has established a special committee to direct the selection process for Ballmer's successor. This committee is chaired by the board's lead independent director, John Thompson, as well as chairman of the board Bill Gates, among others.

The board is working with executive recruiting firm Heidrick & Struggles International Inc., and will consider both internal and external candidates, Microsoft said.

"As a member of the succession planning committee, I'll work closely with the other members of the board to identify a great new CEO," Gates said. "We're fortunate to have Steve in his role until the new CEO assumes these duties."

Microsoft's announcement of Ballmer's retirement comes a month after the executive laid out his vision for "One Microsoft" that aims to enable the company to operate at "greater speed, efficiency and capability in a fast changing world."

Former Xbox division boss Don Mattrick left Microsoft in July to join Zynga as its new CEO. Leading the company's gaming endeavors moving forward is Julie Larson-Green, a 19-year company veteran.

The Xbox One launches in November for $500.

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