updated 03:30 am EDT, Sat November 6, 2010
Despite stagnant performance, could net $2B
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has recently sold about 12 percent of his stake in the company, recent SEC filings revealed, prompting a statement from Microsoft that the executive plans to part with about 75 million shares total, or approximately 18 percent of his 408 million estimated shares, by year's end for "diversification and tax planning" reasons.
Ballmer sold 49.3 million shares in the last three days at an average selling price of $27 per share, for a net gain of $1.34 billion. If he sells the full 75 million shares, he will gain a total of around $2 billion, but still own around 325 million shares, or about four percent of the company, worth nearly $10 billion.
Perhaps to prevent speculation that he may be preparing to retire or leave the company, Balmer added in the statement that "Even though this is a personal financial matter, I want to be clear about this to avoid any confusion. I am excited about our new products and the potential for our technology to change people's lives, and I remain fully committed to Microsoft and its success."
Ballmer remains the second largest shareholder in Microsoft behind current Chairman Bill Gates, who owns around 620 million shares or about 7.2 percent of the company.
Microsoft's shares have been averaging in the mid-$20s for over eight years, with the average price rising only 0.75 percent over the last five years, causing complaints from shareholders that have grown recently. By contrast, Apple's stock has risen over 500 percent in the same time period, with no sign of a downturn.
Ballmer's move comes on the heels of reports of Apple executives also selling substantial portions of their holdings, perhaps sparked by the coming change in long-term capital gains tax rates, which are set to rise from 15 to 20 percent with the new year due to the expiration of Bush-era cuts. The tax rate will return to its 2002 level as per the original legislation.