Microsoft’s ‘former’ board of directors

November 13, 2007, 11:23 PM UTC

Mighty Microsoft (MSFT) held its annual shareholders meeting today in Redmond, Wash. I know this because the company sent me a press release about it.

I quickly skimmed the blah, blah, blah about “positive customer momentum” and “strategy of investing in innovation,” and, for some reason, took a careful look at Mr. Softee’s board of directors, which the company printed in the release. Here’s the roster, with emphasis added to make the point I’m about to discuss:

Microsoft’s board of directors consists of William H. Gates, Microsoft chairman; Steven A. Ballmer, Microsoft chief executive officer; James I. Cash Jr., Ph.D., former James E. Robison professor of business administration at Harvard Business School; Dina Dublon, former chief financial officer of JPMorgan Chase; Raymond V. Gilmartin, former chairman, president and chief executive officer of Merck & Co. Inc.; Reed Hastings, founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Netflix Inc.; David F. Marquardt, general partner at August Capital; Charles H. Noski, former vice chairman of AT&T Corp.; Dr. Helmut Panke, former chairman of the board of management at BMW Bayerische Motoren Werke AG; and Jon A. Shirley, former president and chief operating officer of Microsoft.

I think you can see where I’m going. That’s six out of ten “formers” on the board, seven if you count Bill Gates, former CEO. Not counting CEO Steve Ballmer, there is precisely one current operating executive on the board, Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix (NFLX), an innovative company that is nonetheless a pipsqueak in a narrow market niche.

Buzz words aside, Microsoft still hasn’t been able to shake itself from the torpor of having its butt kicked by Google (GOOG) in the online advertising world. By comparison, Google’s board includes the presidents of Princeton and Stanford, and the CEOs of Genentech (DNA) and Intel (INTC). Apple’s (AAPL) board includes the CEOs of Google, Genentech and J. Crew (JCG).

Could it be that Microsoft’s board of “formers” isn’t helping matters?