The shy and retired Ballmer is still the company’s biggest individual shareholder and he sat next to Jackson in the second row of the Meydenbauer Centre auditorium, packed with about 400 shareholders.
Ballmer chatted warmly with Jackson before and after the meeting, surrounded by well-wishers and photographers and well-informed technology reporters who had stuffed their ears well before hand.
Ballmer, who had several clashes with the board in his 14 years as CEO, applauded several times but was not always impressed with responses from the stage.
A shareholder had asked at what price Microsoft would consider not buying back its own shares, a question on many investors’ minds after the stock has risen 82 percent over the past two years to 14-year highs.
“I generally believe that our ability to grow is really only limited by our own imagination, so I tend to think the stock price over time reflects our ability to execute on that broad dream,” Hood answered, dodging the direct question but effectively signalling that the shares should keep rising as long as Microsoft achieves its goals.
“Well said,” new CEO Satya Nadella chimed in.
“That last answer sucked!” Ballmer whispered to an acquaintance, which was apparently heard by the entire theatre.
Jackson met with Nadella this week and had asked the company to step up its efforts to create a more diverse workforce. According to the company’s latest data, its more than 100,000-strong workforce is 71 percent male and 61 percent Caucasian.
Nadella, who is Indian-born, and Chairman John Thompson, who is African-American, assured Jackson the issue was a priority for Microsoft.
We guess he meant all those who did not want to improve their karma by not asking for more money.