In February 2014, when Nadella was appointed CEO, Microsoft’s flagship Windows business was weakening, and the company was struggling with its failures in the mobile phone and internet search markets. Nadella, who grew up in Hyderabad and joined Microsoft in the US in 1992, refocused the company around cloud computing and artificial intelligence, and instilled a greater sense of ownership among employees — moves that paid off handsomely. The company’s share price has risen nearly 600% since 2014. And since the fourth quarter of 2018, Microsoft has frequently been the most valued publicly listed company in the world, with Apple the only other contender for that spot.
On Nadella’s appointment as chairman, Microsoft said in a statement, “In this role, Nadella will lead the work to set the agenda for the board leveraging his deep understanding of the business to elevate the right strategic opportunities and identify key risks and mitigation approaches for the board’s review.”
Nadella, 53, succeeds John Thompson, a former CEO of Symantec who took over as chairman when Gates stepped down from that post in 2014.
In December, in a filing to the US stock market regulator SEC, the board heaped praise on Nadella for the way he navigated the company through the pandemic, and the manner in which he had transformed the company’s culture. “During fiscal year 2020, Microsoft increased revenue by 14% year over year, while facing unprecedented constraints due to Covid-19 in the second half of the year. Under Mr Nadella’s leadership during 2020, many of Microsoft’s products achieved significant growth…,” it said.
The board, the filing said, had asked Nadella to create additional focus on the culture of the organisation for fiscal year 2020 and is very pleased with the results that were achieved. “Based on poll data, 95% of employees feel proud to work at Microsoft. The board credits Mr Nadella for his tremendous progress driving cultural change across the organisation,” it said.
Nadella was born in Hyderabad. His mother was a Sanskrit lecturer and his father an IAS officer. He attended the Hyderabad Public School, and went on to do a Bachelor’s in electrical engineering from the Manipal Institute of Technology in Karnataka. He then went to the US to do a Master’s in computer science at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee.
He worked briefly with Sun Microsystems before joining Microsoft in 1992.