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Ballmer will 'look forward' after Microsoft

He may not have been as iconic as Bill Gates, but former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was a trailblazer at the 39-year-old software giant. Now he is relinquishing his seat on the company's board.

High-fiving his way through a crowd of 4,500 Los Angeles Clippers fans earlier this week, former Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer celebrated his

recent $2-billion (1.5 billion-euro) purchase of the basketball team

in a manner reminiscent of the high-spirited employee pep rallies he once held at the software giant's headquarters in Redmond, Washington.

"We're looking forward," Ballmer told onlookers before the game. "Everything is about looking forward."

And that is exactly what the 58-year-old intends to do.

On Tuesday, Ballmer

announced his resignation

from Microsoft's board of directors, saying it would allow him more time to focus on managing his newly acquired basketball team, teaching business at two renowned American universities and his own civic endeavors.

"I bleed Microsoft - have for 34 years and I always will," Ballmer said in a letter to current CEO Satya Nadella. "Given my confidence and the multitude of new commitments I am taking on now, I think it would be impractical for me to continue to serve on the board, and it is best for me to move off."

A distinguished career

His departure marks the end of a 34-year career at the software giant. The son of a manager at the Ford Motor Company in Detroit, Ballmer joined Microsoft in 1980 when it was just a small tech start-up operating out of the Seattle suburbs.

Bill Gates, Microsoft's iconic founder, brought on Ballmer as the nascent firm's first business manager. The two had roomed down the hall from each other as sophomores at Harvard University, where Ballmer received a bachelor's degree in mathematics and economics.

In the ensuing decades, Ballmer worked his way up to head a number of divisions within the growing company. Before succeeding co-founder Bill Gates as CEO in 2000, Ballmer worked as senior vice president of sales and support, senior vice president of systems software and vice president of marketing.

For two and a half years, he served as the company's president, a role that overlapped with his function as CEO until February 2001.

Commendation and criticism

For years, Ballmer could be seen shuttling to product releases, technology forums and conferences around the world.

Under his leadership, Microsoft more than tripled its revenue and doubled profits, according to a brief profile on the company's website.

But Ballmer's tenure there was not without dispute. Some blasted him for failing to steer the company into a new technological era dominated by mobile devices and cloud computing. Since Ballmer stepped down as CEO earlier this year,

Microsoft stock has risen about 24 percent

. Since he made public his plans to retire a year ago, those stocks have risen 40 percent.

Ballmer will remain the company's biggest shareholder, with 333.3 million shares in his name, giving him a 4 percent stake worth about $15 billion - even more than co-founder Bill Gates, who holds about 330 million shares.

cjc/uhe (AP, Reuters, dpa, Microsoft)

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