Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer gave an emotional farewell speech to his company’s employees, addressing them en masse for the last time as CEO.
Ballmer reportedly received a standing ovation from the 13,000 full-time staff at the event, promising them that Microsoft would “change the world again”.
Ballmer joined the company in 1980 as the 30th employee and led various different divisions before succeeding founder Bill Gates and being named Chief Executive Officer in 2000. Ballmer announced his plans to leave the company in 12 months’ time in August.
Taking the stage accompanied by the strains of “Can’t Hold Us” by hip-hop duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Ballmer told employees: "We have unbelievable potential in front of us, we have an unbelievable destiny."
Ballmer, who is known for his enthusiasm and unorthodox approach to company communications (see below) made multiple references to Microsoft’s origins, reusing a song he had chosen for the first company meeting in 1983 (Michael Jackson's "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin”) and repeating comments he made at that event:
"Only our company and a handful of others are poised to write the future," said Ballmer. "We're going to think big, we're going to bet big."
Sources speaking to The Verge said that Ballmer paused after playing the Michael Jackson hit and was seen to have tears ‘visibly streaming down his face’: “You work for the greatest company in the world,” he told the thousands of staff assembled, “soak it in."
The exiting CEO also reiterated the plans laid out by himself and his colleagues for the future of Microsoft as “devices and services” company.
Ballmer first announced this re-organisation back in July, outlining his plans for a software and hardware company that was “nimble, communicative, collaborative, decisive and motivated”.
Ballmer reportedly also took pot shots at his rivals during the farewell speech. He described Amazon as about concerned primarily with being “cheap”, Apple about being “fashionable” and Google about “knowing more”. Microsoft, said Ballmer, is about “doing more”.
He then thanked the company’s employees, saying “this isn't about any one person. It's about a company that's important, that's forward thinking, that's innovative”, ending the speech by playing Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes' "(I've had) The Time of My Life), running around the stage and shaking hands with employees.