Microsoft's Nadella now holds dual role of CEO and chairman

It's the first time the same executive has held both roles since co-founder Bill Gates stepped down in 2014

Microsoft's CEO, Satya Nadella, has been appointed chairman of the board following a unanimous vote by the company's independent directors.

It's the first time in more than 20 years that the tech giant has had the same executive in both CEO and chairman roles, with co-founder Bill Gates the last to hold the titles simultaneously.

Although we won't know how this will specifically change Nadella's day-to-day workload, the chairman is usually tasked with ensuring the board is effective in setting and implementing the company's direction and long-term strategy. In this regard, it appears Nadella has been given more responsibility and more scope to shape the company's future, having gained the support of the directors during his time as CEO.

John Thompson, who Nadella is replacing as chairman, will take on the role of 'lead independent director' with a mandate to head up the performance evaluations of the CEO. Thompson has played a significant role in Nadella's rise at Microsoft, leading the team that appointed him CEO in 2014, not long after Thompson, himself, originally took over as chairman.

Prior to this, Bill Gates held the chairman role, alongside Steve Ballmer as CEO.

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Although he had stepped down as CEO in 2000, Gates still retained control of Microsoft, and its technological vision, as chairman. He also kept a position on the board long after relinquishing that role to Thompson, finally fully departing the company in 2020 to focus on his charity work.

The partnership of Nadella as CEO and Thompson as chair has seen Microsoft pivot towards cloud computing, with its hugely successful Azure platform, which Nadella originally headed up.

The firm is now one the biggest companies in the world, matching the likes of Apple and Amazon, which were all valued at around $1 trillion in 2019.

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