Ex-Microsoft SVP's New Book: Ballmer Squashes Potential CEO Candidates

Joachim Kempin, in "Resolve and Fortitude: Microsoft's 'Secret Power Broker' Breaks His Silence," said Ballmer has sought to rid the company of any potential threats to his crown. He told Reuters that he first saw it happen with Richard Belluzzo, a former Hewlett-Packard executive who helped launch Xbox and rose to the position of Microsoft COO before leaving after 14 months on the job.

"He [Belluzzo] had no room to breathe on the top. When you work that directly with Ballmer and Ballmer believes 'maybe this guy could someday take over from me', my God, you will have less air to breathe, that's what it comes down to," Kempin told Reuters.

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Kempin worked at Microsoft for nearly 20 years before leaving his post as senior vice president in 2002. He was embroiled in Microsoft's antitrust complaint in the late 1990s.

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In the book, Kempin recalled people saying that Ballmer looked like a "linebacker with quarterback ambitions" who could make up "any shortfall through sheer voltage and a personality inimitably his own."

Kempin also cited ex-Microsoft executives Steven Sinofsky, Kevin Johnson, Stephen Elop and Ray Ozzie as executives who left Microsoft as challengers to Ballmer's CEO position.

"Ozzie is a great software guy; he knew what he was doing. But when you see Steve [Ballmer] and him on stage where he [Ozzie] opposed Steve, it was Steve's way or the highway," Kempin said to Reuters.