October 05, 2011, 12:05 PM — Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer – Microsoft employee No. 30, the 17 th richest person in the United States, No. 46 on Forbes’ list of global billionaires and the financial wizard whose acumen was able through hard work and brilliant technical visioneering to reduce the value of the industry’s most powerful company by nine percent in the three years since he took over as CEO – Ballmer is underpaid, according to Microsoft’s Board of Directors.
In papers filed with the SEC, Ballmer’s compensation was $1.38 million, two percent higher than 2010. Only 682,500 of that was salary; the rest was a bonus that was, admittedly, only half as much as he could have received if the board hadn't been giving him a slap on the wrist for being so slow to respond to tablets and smartphones and cloud computing that Microsoft remains an also-ran in all three (except smartphones, in which it's more of an "oh, are you still running?").
Ballmer actually got 100 percent of the bonus the Board could have given, but didn't get the 100 percent bonus-bonus it could also have given – the corporate financial equivalent of giving the teacher's pet an A+ for effort rather than an A++ on a test in which Stevie did not quite live up to his potential.
His performance – as CEO since 2000 under the supervision of Bill Gates and on his own since Gates' retirement in 2008 -- has been so relentlessly adequate that a surge in popularity for its iOS products caused Apple's stock price to surge far enough to unseat Microsoft as the most-valued technology company, despite sales that are a fraction of Microsoft's and even profit percentages that are lower than Microsoft's.
Microsoft's stock price, which dropped as far as 43 percent below its value when Gates retired, has barely risen back to where it was when the Emperor left, causing influential investors such as hedge fund manager David Einhorn started calling publicly for Ballmer's resignation in the spring – and almost certainly far earlier through more discreet channels.