In an interview today with CBS This Morning, former Microsoft CEO and new NBA team owner Steve Ballmer spoke candidly about a range of subjects. The conversation roamed from buying the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion (“There’s just no sport as great as basketball”), to leaving the company he helped build with Bill Gates (“No, actually, nobody wanted me to leave as CEO”), to his former employer’s whiffs with Nokia and Windows Phone (“All along the way we’ve appreciated mobile, but we’re not winning in mobile,” he said. “There’s a difference between saying hey, you were asleep, and saying hey, you didn’t put the formula together right. We didn’t.”)
Ballmer also took the opportunity to defend his successor, current CEO Satya Nadella, for remarks concerning whether women should ask for raises in the workplace. If you recall, speaking recently at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference, Nadella said, “It’s not really about asking for a raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will give you the right raise. That might be one of the initial ‘super powers,’ that quite frankly, women (who) don’t ask for a raise have. It’s good karma. It will come back.”
The remarks landed Nadella in a heap of criticisms, and he swiftly backpedaled. But the damage was done, prompting Ballmer to defend him on CBS This Morning. Here’s what he said:
Interviewer: The person who succeeded you, Satya Nadella, just got in some hot water recently when at a women’s teach conference said it was bad karma for a women to ask for a raise.
Ballmer: I don’t remember the precise quote, but you now it’s one of those things. When you’re the CEO of a big company, you have to be thinking about sort of seven dimensions of everything you say. Satya spoke about his personal experience, actually he allowed good karma to happen and good things happened to him and he was very fortunate, and that’s his genuine belief in life.
But you do have people who don’t necessarily get a fair shake through the process, particularly a group of women in technology–that’s probably a tougher place to be. And so relating to his personal experience, probably not what that group needed to hear at that time, despite the fact that, you know, it would be a nice world if things worked out that way. And it did work out well for Satya. And he’s showed he’s a lovely human being, actually.
Ballmer had less kind things to say about his own predecessor, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who he reportedly doesn’t speak to anymore. When asked about his relationship with Gates, Ballmer replied, “You know, we’ve dusted up in our lives many times. That kind of stuff happens. But we’ve done that before. We’ve done that before.”