It’s been a very interesting month for Microsoft with it’s introduction of the Xbox Kinect System, and the much anticipated Windows Phone 7, all seems well in the Great Pacific Northwest. In fact, reports are retailers can’t keep Kinect units on the shelves, which makes the next chapter of the story even more interesting.
Reuters is reporting that Microsoft CEO Steven Ballmer has sold 49.3 million shares of his company stock. Now before you Microsoft haters yell “Yeah but the stock is only $27 a share!!”, do the math and you will realize that the sale has netted Ballmer $1.3 billion. Yes I said BILLION with a “B”.
I always find it interesting when a high ranking company official sells a large number of their shares in the company. Does the executive think that profits have peaked and that they need to get while the getting is good, or is it just their time to cash in? Ballmer can’t be cash strapped as I am pretty sure his CEO salary is in excess of seven digits. With the above mentioned product launches you would expect Microsoft stock to, at worst, gain some momentum if not soar to the heavens.
The reality is that Microsoft stock has been pretty stagnant over the last decade. I remember the Nov. 2000 stock prices were right around $30 a share, and about 3 years ago it hit its highest point of $37 a share. To be fair, Microsoft did split the stock in 2003.
Ballmer states the cash-out was a simple “personal financial matter” although the rumor mill has been churning since the news hit the wire. Some experts speculate that this indicates Ballmer is on his way out as CEO, and with rivals Apple and Google gaining market share it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility.
Whatever the reason, Steve Ballmer has an extra billion dollars to play around with. So, if you catch up with him at CES in Vegas this coming Jan., don’t be afraid to excuse yourself to the restroom when the drink bill comes as he can afford it.
Do you think there the media is reading to much into this stock sale or do you think Microsoft is ready to make a change?