Report: Ericsson CEO Pulls Out Of Microsoft CEO Hunt, Says He's Staying Put

Ericsson CEO Hans Vestburg, who recently emerged as a candidate to replace outgoing Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, has told his company’s board he's staying put, Bloomberg reported Wednesday.

Ericsson couldn't be reached for confirmation, but Vestburg would be the third technology executive to pull out of the Microsoft CEO hunt in the past six weeks. And as Microsoft's CEO search enters its sixth month, partners are growing uneasy about why Microsoft is struggling to find a qualified candidate who wants the job.

[Related: Microsoft Partners In Uproar Over Cloud Sales Commission Cuts ]

The longer Microsoft goes without finding Ballmer's replacement, the more likely it becomes that it will pick COO Kevin Turner, one partner told CRN, speaking on condition of anonymity. Turner was said to be one of the internal candidates Microsoft was considering early on, but his name hasn't been linked to the search in months.

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While Turner oversees about half of Microsoft and probably knows more about running the company than anyone except Ballmer, he's not well loved in the channel. If Microsoft picks Turner, "that would be a disaster," the partner said.

Some partners believe Turner is behind Microsoft's decision not to let all partners sell Surface tablets, as well as recent changes to cloud incentive payments that will cut some partners' payments by up to 50 percent.

Bill Gates has repeatedly said he's not interested in returning as CEO, so while many partners would be thrilled about such a development, they're not holding their breath in anticipation.

"Although Gates returning would be very positive, he seems so detached at this point that it's hard to see it happening," Marc Harrison, president of Silicon East, a Manalapan, N.J.-based Microsoft partner, told CRN.

That said, Gates "has become a more active presence" at Microsoft since the CEO search began, and that seems likely to continue once Microsoft picks a new CEO, Re/code reported earlier this month.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that some unnamed candidates are worried about interference from Gates and Ballmer if both keep their seats on Microsoft's board.

Earlier this month, Alan Mulally -- until then widely deemed the front-runner -- officially removed himself from the running. In December, Qualcomm tapped COO Steve Mollenkopf as CEO just a day after reports surfaced that he'd talked to Microsoft about succeeding Ballmer.