Gates Quits as Microsoft's CEO

By David Streitfeld and Mark Leibovich
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, January 14, 2000

The best-known, most successful and most embattled chief executive in America kicked himself upstairs yesterday, giving up day-to-day control of the company he built into the dominant force of the computer era.

Bill Gates, who dropped out of Harvard University a quarter-century ago to co-found a company called Micro-Soft, turned over the reins to his longtime deputy, Steve Ballmer.

Gates said he will now be "chief software architect" for Microsoft Corp., which over the years changed its name slightly, grew to 30,000 employees, became the first company to be worth $ 500 billion and put its products inside the vast majority of personal computers.

As a result, the worlds of technology, communication and commerce all were changed.

"It is a nice milestone to look back and say: 'Hey, you know, over the last 25 years we really got something done, and I'm proud of that,' " Gates said at a news conference at Microsoft's Redmond, Wash., headquarters. He said he had "no regrets at all."

This isn't a retirement--he'll remain as chairman--but a marked shift in priorities. "My commitment to working full time, working with the same energy that I've brought to this job over these last 25 years, is 100 percent."

The announcement came two days after the news leaked that the U.S. government wanted to dissolve his company into three pieces, and three days after America Online Inc.--which Gates once tried to buy and then did his best to put out of business--announced a merger with Time Warner Inc., a combination that is likely to prove a formidable competitor to Microsoft.

Both Gates and Ballmer stressed that their announcement was in no way linked to those events.

"We have been in deep discussions about this for several months," Ballmer told reporters at the news conference. The timing, he said, "is really coincidental in every sense."

Added Gates: "There is no relationship in terms of the different events."

The news conference was vintage Gates. He looked boyish as ever. He was wearing one of his trademark sweaters. He used the word "neat." And he waxed enthusiastic over the wired future and his company's prospects.

"When I think of what will this next decade be, how will people look back at it, I think we can say that they might even call it the software decade," he said.

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