Who Is Satya Nadella, Last Geek Standing for the Microsoft CEO Job?

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Microsoft ( MSFT ) stock dropped 2.41% on Thursday, closing at $38, on word that Ford ( F ) chief Alan Mulally plans to stay in his current job role until the end of 2014, and is presumably not available to take the CEO job at Microsoft, as many investors had evidently hoped.

The sources of this information about Mulally reported by Bloomberg News, were pretty good. They included Edsel Ford II, head of the board of directors and a great-grandson of company founder Henry Ford. And, they were confirmed by Mulally.

Speaking on Bloomberg TV on Thursday, Mulally said he planned to stay at Ford. "I love serving Ford, and there is no change in the plan," he told Bloomberg TV on Thursday.

Neither of those comments were quite emphatic enough for some analysts, who responded, in effect, "plans change."

But if Mulally sticks to his statement, that leaves just one top candidate for the CEO job at Microsoft: Satya Nadella.

Satya who? Well, he might not have the self-promotion gene that is so prominent in many of the top executives of our era, but Satya Nadella does not lack other credentials for the job.

A Microsoft employee since 1992, Nadella is Executive Vice President of the company's Cloud and Enterprise Group, and is widely credited with Microsoft's successful move to cloud computing. He has had a wide range of executive roles at the company, including a stint as president of its $19 billion Server and Tools business.

In 2011, when Nadalla was named to run the Servers and Tools division, retiring CEO Steve Ballmer's internal email described him as meeting the job requirement for "the right mix of leadership, vision, and hard-core engineering chops."

Notably, that mix does not include prior experience as a CEO.

Some Microsoft watchers had envisioned Mulally, who is 69, stepping in as a transitional leader, while grooming Nadella to succeed him. (Nadella, born in 1969, is a mere colt by CEO standards.)

Mulally and Nadella are hardly the only two candidates out there, but Bloomberg reported just last week that the short list had dwindled, with one of those two deemed most probable.

They were seen as having an edge over two other prominent candidates: Tony Bates, another insider and said to be the favorite of Silicon Valley denizens, and Stephen Elop, the Microsoft veteran who left to run Nokia ( NOK ) but returned as part of the package that included the sale of Nokia's handset business to Microsoft.

That leaves Nadella and, not surprisingly, "the excitement is palpable" at MIT-that's the Manipal Institute of Technology-according to Mumbai-based news site DNAindia.com .

Born in Hyderabad, Nadella received his bachelor's degree in engineering from the prestigious Manipal Institute before earning master's degrees in engineering and business from US universities. He worked at Sun Microsystems before joining Microsoft.

If he's a superstar within Microsoft, Nadella seems to keep a low profile in the wider world. He uses his Twitter (NYSE: TWTR ) account to promote his division's Microsoft products. He let a reference to a cricket match slip in once, but that's about it for personal revelations.

The media in India, which naturally takes a strong interest, reports that Nadella is married to an alumnus of his own school, the Hyderabad Public School. He played cricket for the school team. And he visits his parents back home in India every year.

Being a local success story, he can't avoid the Indian media altogether. Asked by the Deccan Chronicle for his keys to success, he said, "Be passionate and bold. Always keep learning. You stop doing useful things if you don't learn."

Microsoft is expected to name its new CEO by the end of the year.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.



This article appears in: Investing , Technology

Referenced Stocks: F , MSFT , NOK , TWTR

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