Influential hedge fund manager and longtime Microsoft investor David Einhorn urged Microsoft to oust its CEO on Wednesday. At the annual Ira Sohn Investment Research Conference in New York, Einhorn picked apart Steve Ballmer's leadership skills. "Ballmer's continued presence is ruining your stock," he warned the Microsoft board. "It's time for Microsoft to tell Steve Ballmer to go." He even cited Ballmer's parenting decisions as evidence of his incompetence.
"Einhorn reviewed comments from Mr. Ballmer in the media that suggested he did not see Apple’s iPhone or iPod devices as a threat," reports The New York Times. "He also told an interviewer that his children were not allowed to use Google or iPods, which Mr. Einhorn suggested meant he was out of touch and 'stuck in the past.'"
Einhorn (who just acquired a minority share in the New York Mets) is somewhat of a loudmouth when it comes to making sweeping prognostications. As Reuter's notes, he made a prescient call three years ago, as president of Greenlight Capital, raising skepticism over Lehman Brothers' accounting practices prior to its bankruptcy filing. "In the spring of 2008, Einhorn said Lehman... had understated its own problems and needed to raise capital to support a balance sheet peppered with risky assets." However, he's not always spot on like that. As Zero Hedge pointed out, last year he advocated going short on Moody's and McGraw-Hill while going long on African Barrick Gold, which "would have meant double-digit declines."
Regardless, the tech world is taking Einhorn's statements seriously. "What makes Einhorn's comment unique is that he's the first investor to zero in on Ballmer rather than express general frustration with the performance of Microsoft's stock," writes Gavin Clarke at The Register. He put Einhorn's grousing in conext of Microsoft's recent acquisition of Skype. "Skype gave Microsoft's stock price absolutely no boost in value. That meant Einhorn's colleagues didn't see the deal the same way Ballmer did or buy his justification." Meanwhile, tech entreprenuer Jason Calacanis is soliciting recomendations on who should replace Ballmer.