John W. Thompson (February 2014)

John W. Thompson Replaces Bill Gates As Microsoft Chairman

Microsoft's new chairman John W. Thompson

Microsoft’s new chairman John W. Thompson

Not only does Microsoft have a new CEO, Satya Nadella, the tech giant has tapped veteran Silicon Valley executive John W. Thompson to replace Bill Gates as its chairman this week.

One of the few high-ranking African-Americans in tech, Thompson will become only the second chairman in Microsoft’s history.

Gates will now serve as technology advisor to support newly-appointed CEO.

“This is the capstone, the cherry on top,” said technology analyst Charles King.

“I don’t know where you go after this. [Thomson] is a good man and a very able leader, and he should be exactly what Microsoft needs at this time.”

The appointment of Thompson, who owns San Jose-based software company Virtual Instruments, marks a crucial new direction for Microsoft.

The company has seen a sales decline with the decrease in demand for personal computers, causing the company to move quickly toward mobile devices.

“They are going straight to a core Silicon Valley executive to be chairman, and I think part of that speaks to where the technology trend is going in terms of mobile,” said FBR Capital Markets analyst Daniel Ives.

Thompson is a deeply-respected former chief executive of internet security corporation Symantec, and spent 28 years with IBM Corporation.

“Thompson’s going to be a major voice for the company,” James Staten, an analyst at Forrester Research, said in an interview. “They wouldn’t have made him chairman, if he didn’t have strong opinions about how to drive the company forward. And Satya is looking for strong partners on the board.”

He has been a member of Microsoft’s board of directors for two years and led the company’s search for a new chief executive, which resulted in the naming of Satya Nadella.

“As part of my new role,” Thompson says in a company video, “one of my key contributions, I hope, will be to engage with shareholders and keep focused on how together we can bring great innovation to the market and drive strong, long-term shareholder value.”

John is also on boards for UPS, Seagate Technology, Florida A&M University, Illinois Governor’s Human Resource Advisory Council, and Teach for America.

The South Florida-raised exec earned a bachelor’s degree from Florida A&M University in 1971 and a master’s degree from the Sloan Fellows program of the MIT Sloan School of Management in 1983.