Microsoft’s co-founder Bill Gates is reportedly under pressure from some of the company’s leading investors to step down as chairman.
According to Reuters, three of the software firm’s top 20 investors feel that Gates’ role as chairman is effectively blocking the adoption of new strategies.
They also think he would limit the power of whoever replaces Steve Ballmer as chief executive to make substantial changes.
Ballmer has been under pressure for years to improve Microsoft’s performance and share price, but this appears to be the first time major shareholders are taking aim at Gates.
Microsoft would not comment on the report and there is no indication that its board would heed the wishes of the three investors.
The Reuters report does not identify them but does say they collectively hold more than five percent of the company’s stock.
Gates himself owns about 4.5 percent of the company and is its largest individual shareholder.
He lowered his profile at Microsoft after he handed the CEO role to Ballmer in 2000.
Gates gave up his day-to-day work there in 2008 to focus on his philanthropic efforts through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
News that some investors were pushing for Gates’ to go brought a mixed reactions from other shareholders.
“This is long overdue,” said Todd Lowenstein, a portfolio manager at HighMark Capital Management, which owns Microsoft shares.
“Replacing the old guard with some fresh eyes can provide the oxygen needed to properly evaluate their corporate strategy.”
Kim Caughey Forrest, senior analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group, suggested now was not the time for Microsoft to ditch Gates, and that he could even play a larger role.
“I’ve thought that the company has been missing a technology visionary,” she said. “Bill (Gates) would fit the bill.”