'Nadella Effect' makes Ballmer $US2.8bn richer

And since last weeks downsizing, CEO Satya Nadella has an extra $US1.3m in his portfolio

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's "devices and services" strategy may be in tatters, discarded by his successor, Satya Nadella, but Ballmer must be smiling all the way to the bank.

According to U.S. Securities and Exchange (SEC) documents, Ballmer owns more than 333 million shares in Microsoft. At Monday's closing price of $US44.83, those shares were valued at $US14.9 billion.

On the day before Ballmer stepped aside, Microsoft's share price was $US36.48, putting his portfolio's worth at just over $US12.1 billion. Because of the 23 per cent increase in share value since February3, Ballmer's Microsoft holdings have appreciated in value by almost $US2.8 billion.

The Nadella Effect - Wall Street's assumption that the new CEO will turn around Microsoft's fortunes - has also put more on the ledger sheets of other executives, past and present.

Co-founder and former CEO and chairman, Bill Gates, owns 318 million shares -- he ceded his shareholder crown to Ballmer in May -- and has seen his Microsoft stock value soar by nearly $US2.7 billion in less than six months, to $US14.3 billion as of yesterday. Gates has regularly sold 80 million shares each quarter, however, as he slowly empties the portfolio.

Further down on the strike-it-rich tally board were chief operating officer Kevin Turner, whose holdings jumped by $US21.3 million to $US61 million since Nadella took over; and Eric Rudder, the 25-year veteran of the firm who has led the Advanced Strategy group since the mid-2013 reorganisation. Rudder's Microsoft portfolio increased in value by $US7.7 million to $US41.2 million under Nadella's watch.

But what of the new CEO?

Nadella's holdings currently stand at just over 554,000 shares -- less than 0.2 per cent of Ballmer's - but the value of those shares has climbed by $US4.6 million since his accession to the top job. Nadella's Microsoft shares were worth about $US24.8 million as of Monday.

However, Nadella has been promised another 975,777 shares over the next four years if he stays in the job. Those shares had a paper value of $US43.7 million yesterday.

Last week, Nadella announced Microsoft's largest-ever lay-offs when he said 18,000 employees, most inherited from the $US7.2 billion acquisition of Nokia's handset business, will be cashiered in the next 12 months. The bulk of those jobs were cut last week.

The week before, Nadella had sent Microsoft workers a 3100-word epistle that, among other things, said the company would abandon Ballmer's strategy of turning the firm into a "devices and services" seller. Instead, Nadella added "productivity and platforms" to his earlier "mobile-first, cloud-first" phrase, and said Microsoft would "reinvent productivity to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more."

Wall Street rewarded Microsoft for the job cuts, pushing the price up 5.5 per cent between Thursday morning and yesterday's closing bell. That increase alone bumped up Ballmer's portfolio by $US783 million, Gates' by $US747 million, Turner's by $US3.2 million and Nadella's by $US1.3 million.

Depending on the results of Microsoft's second-quarter earnings call, the holdings of Ballmer, Gates, Nadella and other Microsoft executives and employees could rise or fall.

Ballmer, for one, must be hoping that the share price will climb even higher.

According to reports by a href="http://espn.go.com/los-angeles/nba/story/_/id/11244868/donald-sterling-steve-ballmer-friendly-talk-los-angeles-clippers">ESPN and USA Today, Ballmer met Monday afternoon with Donald Sterling, co-owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, to talk about the pending $US2 billion sale of the NBA team.

Ballmer, who struck the record deal for the team with Sterling's wife Shelly in May, had what ESPN described as a "friendly conversation" of 90 minutes with Donald Sterling at his home on Monday.

Donald Sterling is embroiled in a state court battle with his wife over the sale of the Clippers. He has contested her right to sell the franchise, while she and her lawyers have argued that he was mentally incapacitated.

Ballmer and Donald Sterling failed to reach a settlement during their discussion, the sports network said, and the court case will resume today in Los Angeles. Shelly Sterling is again expected to take the stand.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver is trying to force the sale of the Clippers after racist comments Donald Sterling made in a private conversation went public earlier this year. Sterling was also banned for life from the league and fined $US2.5 million.

Donald Sterling has claimed that the Clippers are worth much more than $US2 billion. In his court testimony two weeks ago, Sterling said he could get between $US2.5 billion and $US5 billion for the team.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at Twitter @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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