-- Steve Ballmer's $1.33 billion insider selling move represented 12.2% of his entire Microsoft holdings, not 14% as originally reported. TheStreet regrets the error.
NEW YORK (
(MSFT - Get Report)
Steve Ballmer is the rare chief executive that doesn't usually shrink from
and occasionally even
throws himself into the spotlight
But when it comes to unloading a billion or two worth of shares, Ballmer took the quiet route,
announcing late Friday
that he was looking to cash in $2 billion worth of Microsoft stock.
| Microsoft CEO Steven Ballmer
The fact that the move came Friday was telling. But the fact that a standup guy like Ballmer picked a Friday seemed uncharacteristically timid.
Releasing bad news on the eve of a weekend when the market's attention starts to drifts a bit is a slightly shady move. Not only does it shield the stock from any immediate pressure, it attempts to protect the subject from the harsh media spotlight.
In a brief statement late Friday, Ballmer said he "plans to sell up to 75 million shares by year-end" as a personal finance matter to help him with "financial diversification and to assist in tax planning." According to an SEC filing Friday, he unloaded 49.3 million shares for a staggering $1.33 billion in cash.
Unlike Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates who sold 3 million shares, or $81.6 million, as part of his pre-arranged 10b-51 selling plan a day earlier, Ballmer's cash out was a surprise.
But don't fret, the 49.3 million shares Ballmer sold are a mere 12.2% of his total holdings. So he's effectively kept $8 billion of his power dry, you could say.
Ballmer has been
under the gun
in recent years for failing meet the Internet challenges posed by
(GOOG - Get Report)
and the rising threat of old nemesis
(AAPL - Get Report)
But this massive stock sale should in no way suggest he's not stoked about the company, which launched its
new Windows 7 phones
(T - Get Report)
"I am excited about our new products and the potential for our technology to change people's lives," Ballmer said in his statement late Friday. "And I remain fully committed to Microsoft and its success."
Well, maybe 12.2% less committed, let's say.
--Written by Scott Moritz in New York.
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Editor's note: "Tech Edge" is a blog written and compiled by Scott Moritz, TheStreet's senior tech correspondent. The blog explores behind-the-scenes tech news, rumors and reports that Wall Street folks are talking about.