Nokia chief heads guessing game on new Microsoft CEO

Labrokes offer 5/1 on Elop to replace Ballmer

Nokia chief executive Stephen Elop, who has presided over a 62 per cent decline in market value, as the favorite to become Microsoft’s new CEO.

Elop, a former Microsoft executive, has 5-to-1 odds to be hired as Steve Ballmer’s replacement, according to Ladbrokes. He leads a pool including internal candidates Kevin Turner and Julie Larson-Green and outsiders like Apple CEO Tim Cook - a 100-to-1 dark horse.

Microsoft is searching for a CEO who can help the biggest software maker fight back against competition in mobile, search, video, gaming and personal-computing development. Microsoft said last week Ballmer, its leader since 2000, would step down within the next 12 months.

Elop was the president of Microsoft’s business division, where he was in charge of Microsoft Office, before taking the top job at Nokia. The mobile-phone maker announced a strategic partnership with Microsoft just months after Elop became CEO.

Elop likened his company’s mobile position at the time to a burning oil platform on the verge of being engulfed in flames. On September 10th, 2010, when the Finnish company hired Elop, it was trading at €7.79 euros a share. Nokia fell 1 per cent to €2.96 yesterday in Helsinki.

Ballmer’s tenure at Microsoft has also been a money-loser for investors, with shares down 38 per cent since he became CEO.

Elop’s all-or-nothing remake of Nokia, using Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system, hasn’t yet created a significant challenger to Apple and Samsung Electronics, the dominant leaders in the smartphone market. Still, Elop can claim at least one recent victory: In the second quarter, on the strength of Nokia’s Lumia phones, Microsoft beat out BlackBerry as the third-largest smartphone operating system, according to a Gartner report earlier this month.

Ladbrokes says Turner, Microsoft’s chief operating officer, is the second-favorite contender for the CEO job at 6- to-1, followed by Andreessen Horowitz board partner Steve Sinofsky and Larson-Green, at 8-to-1.

Larson-Green replaced Sinofsky as the company’s Windows chief last year after Sinofsky clashed with executives including Ballmer, people familiar with the situation said at the time. She has since taken on responsibility for all hardware.

Tony Bates, Satya Nadella, Qi Lu and Terry Myerson are the leading internal choices to replace Ballmer, people with knowledge of the matter said. All four have odds between 10-to-1 and 14-to-1 on Ladbrokes.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings offers a 16-to-1 shot for gamblers betting on Microsoft’s expansion in entertainment. The software maker is converting its Xbox gaming console into a multipurpose Internet-connected device, which already lets users watch videos on their televisions from sites including Netflix.

Feeling a bit riskier? Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, T-Mobile USA CEO John Legere and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey are 40-to-1 long shots. Then there’s Bill Gates, Microsoft’s co-founder and the world’s richest person - and a 50-to-1 bet.

- Bloomberg