When Steve Ballmer shocked the world by announcing his retirement in August, many people thought that Bill Gates might take over as CEO.
We heard fairly definitively that Gates was not going to do it. He’s too busy with his foundation, and didn’t want to take over.
Still, the gossip persists that Gates could return. Or, short of return, he could become more involved with the company when it does hire a new CEO.
Today, we happened to be in a small meeting room with Gates, so we asked him directly.
We were expecting Gates to give a strongly worded, firm denial. Something to the effect of, no, not a chance. Are you nuts?
Instead, his answer was, “No, I ran Microsoft for a period of time. And, now I’m the chairman helping out on a part-time basis.”
A denial, but not the strongest denial.
We still don’t think Gates returns to run Microsoft. But, let’s put it this way, prior to asking him in person, we thought there was a 0% chance it would happen. Now, we think there’s a 1% chance it would happen.
In fact, it’s not impossible to believe the gossip that Gates would be a little more involved with the big-picture vision at the company when it hires a new CEO.
Here are our two questions, and his two answers:
Business Insider: You’re clearly passionate about working on global health and poverty issues, but is there any chance you would step down from the foundation and return to Microsoft since Ballmer is stepping down?
Bill Gates: No, I ran Microsoft for a period of time. And, now I’m the chairman helping out on a part-time basis. And that’s my connection. My full-time job is the foundation.
BI: There’s no temptation to get back in that world, in technology, and try to get rid of these kinds of things (pointing at a reporter in the room typing on a keyboard hooked to an iPad, and a MacBook Air) from being in meetings with you and replace them with Surfaces?
BG: Well, I’m part-time involved and Microsoft’s got a lot of stuff, the industry is doing a lot of cool things, and I keep my hand in that, but I won’t be full-time doing that.