Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer took to Twitter for the first time in recent memory, using a new account on Friday to praise newly-permanent Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on his “leaner, more focused” vision, according to a report from CNET. Ballmer, who revealed that he had “bought 4% in the past few months” also noted that he “liked” Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, who last week revealed that he had purchased a “more than 5%” share in Twitter.
The announcement caused Twitter stock, which had been faltering, to pop almost 5% in one day, to close at $31.15 in New York, the highest since July 30.
Ballmer’s praise follows Twitter’s recent, controversial layoff of approximately 8% of its staff, or 336 employees, as reported by Wired. The layoff announcement was made, perhaps unsurprisingly, via Twitter.
Made some tough but necessary decisions that enable Twitter to move with greater focus and reinvest in our growth. http://t.co/BWd7EiGAF2— Jack (@jack) October 13, 2015
The layoffs weren’t executed very well; one former employee reported, as per E! Online, that he didn’t know he’d been laid off until he attempted to log into his company email and noticed, behind the notification that his login had failed, an email titled “You have been removed from Twitter, Inc.” Naturally, he also took to Twitter to complain.
Ballmer’s four percent makes him the third-biggest investor in Twitter, behind Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal with his over five percent and co-founder Evan Williams, who holds about 6.8 percent. CEO Jack Dorsey owns about a three percent share, which he purchased in August alongside some other Twitter insiders, causing rumbles of insider trading accusations.
Shortly after posting his tweet, a Twitter spokesman confirmed that the account belonged to Steve Ballmer and upgraded it to “verified” status.
According to Bloomberg, an analyst at Monness Crespi Hardt & Co, James Cakmak, has stated that Ballmer may be interested in a seat on Twitter’s board, which he suggested would offer Twitter some important connections and experience in professional sports; Ballmer currently owns the Los Angeles Clippers, and his connections could be valuable to a social platform which is known for breaking news before anywhere else. Investors seem to agree, as Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Securities Inc. said, “He’s a brilliant man, he’s clearly a very smart guy, but he is the guy who thought the iPhone was a joke. He is the guy who bought Nokia. It doesn’t make me like Twitter any more or less.”
And that is the burning question, really: does a social media company want Steve Ballmer, a man who nearly sank Microsoft by trying to turn it into something like Apple, as a board member?
It’s not that Twitter can do much worse at this point. As The Register put it, “Ex-Microsoft chief now big shareholder in profitless firm,” and new ideas to become profitable would likely be welcome from any source. But as Vanity Fair noted in their piece on Ballmer’s retirement, since Ballmer took over Microsoft, “it has fallen flat in every arena it entered: e-books, music, search, social networking, etc., etc.” while Google, Facebook, Apple and others all surged ahead.
Under Ballmer’s leadership, Microsoft’s efforts to be seen as a “cool” company, to break into mobile devices, into social networking, into blogging – in fact, everything that makes Twitter work at all – fell horribly flat. Under Ballmer’s leadership, Microsoft bought Nokia to manufacture Windows Phone devices, a move that eventually cost the company $7.6 billion and caused 7,800 layoffs; a loss that Microsoft, still a tech giant, can absorb; a loss that’s almost four times Twitter’s net worth and some 23 times their total workforce, pre-layoff.
So perhaps when Steve Ballmer, the man still enthusing about the Microsoft Surface on Twitter today, shows confidence in your company’s vision and your recent set of layoffs, it’s time to consider that you might need to be going in a new direction.
[Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images]