What’s life like after being CEO of a big company like Microsoft? To hear Steve Ballmer tell it, not bad.
“I feel no compulsion most days to do anything but be with my family and go to basketball games,” he said at FORTUNE’s Brainstorm Tech dinner in San Francisco last night. “There’s no ship date. Life is pretty good.”
Ballmer said his successor, Satya Nadella, is “doing a great job,” but he did chide the company for not being more transparent about the revenues for its cloud business. He also talked about his decision to take a 4% stake in Twitter last year – an investment that hasn’t worked out so well. “I learned I don’t want to be an investor. I have no interest spending time on that. I tried it. BOOM! Next?”
Other Silicon Valley notables at the annual dinner included Aaron Levie of Box, James Park of Fitbit, Mike McNamara of Flex, Ben Silbermann of Pinterest, Nikesh Arora of SoftBank, Beth Comstock of GE, Tom Farley of NSE, and investor Jim Breyer. Participants suggested topics and speakers for our Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen July 11-13.
Separately, our Shawn Tully continues his investigating into Donald Trump’s business practices here.
More news below.
• Clinton, Sanders clash in debate
Just three days after Sen. Bernie Sanders pulled off an upset win in Michigan, he met with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a Florida debate that pitted the only two remaining Democratic presidential hopefuls against each other. It was, at times, more contentious than previous debates — especially when Clinton hit Sanders for his views on Cuban leader Fidel Castro, and when Sanders continued to press Clinton about her speeches to Wall Street banks. Both of them denounced GOP frontrunner Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall on the Mexican border and to deport existing undocumented immigrants. Fortune
• Cameron to warn against ‘Brexit’
A British exit from the European Union would put pressure on sterling, Prime Minister David Cameron will warn on Thursday in a speech outlining the potential costs of voting to leave the bloc in a June referendum. Cameron will make the remarks in a campaign speech as he tries to convince Britons to vote to remain inside the 28-country EU, countering claims from those wanting to leave who say Britain would recover quickly from the shock of an exit. “Let’s just remember what a shock really means,” he will say according to advance extracts of his speech reported in local media. He adds it could also result in lost jobs, rising mortgage rates, and businesses closing. Reuters
• VW’s U.S. Chief is stepping down
Volkswagen AG’s top U.S. executive is stepping down, nearly six months after the German automaker admitted to installing software to allow 580,000 diesel U.S. vehicles to emit excess emissions. Michael Horn is leaving the job immediately and will be replaced on an interim basis by Hinrich J. Woebcken, who was recently named the new head of the North American Region and chairman of Volkswagen Group of America, will assume Horn’s role. Horn’s departure comes as VW continues to negotiate with California, the Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency on possible fixes or buybacks for the diesel vehicles. Reuters
• Nasdaq inks $1.1 billion acquisition
Nasdaq Inc. agreed to buy Deutsche Boerse AG’s International Securities Exchange for $1.1 billion, catapulting it to the top of the U.S. options market. The transaction could also help Deutsche Boerse fund another acquisition. The Frankfurt-based company is in merger talks with London Stock Exchange Group Plc. Deutsche Boerse has been trying to sell ISE, which it bought for $2.8 billion in 2007, since at least 2014. ISE and Nasdaq each run three options markets, which combined, handled 38% of U.S. options volume in February. That exceeds the current leader, CBOE Holdings Inc. Bloomberg
Around the Water Cooler
• United Continental CEO preps for fight
United Continental CEO Oscar Munoz, who returns to work full time next week after suffering a heart attack in October, is walking straight into a fight over the airline operator’s future. One top priority: persuading investors to reject an effort by a pair of hedge funds to dramatically reshape the company’s board of directors. Notably, Munoz has experience in such public spats. When he was chief financial officer at railroad CSX, a brawl resulted in two investors winning four board seats, a battle that spilled out into congressional hearings as CSX touted itself as a national security asset. For the airline’s battle, United has already moved quickly to roll out a website for investors, passengers and employees that it can use to respond to attacks. The Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
• WeWork is raising $780 million
WeWork, a New York-based startup that leases out offices and other co-working spaces, has authorized the issuance of up to $780 million in new stock in a round of funding led by Legend Holdings and Hony Capital. Shares of the offering were priced at just over $50.19 a piece, a 52.6% jump from where the company sold preferred stock last summer. The startup previously raised over $900 million in equity financing from firms including Fidelity Investments, T. Rowe Price, J.P. Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs. Fortune
• Lawmakers may curb airline fees
On Wednesday, legislators introduced a bill that would limit airline fees for checked bags, ticket changes and cancellations, saying the practice amounts to a form of price gouging. Backed by several consumer organizations, the bill follows an attempt to set minimum standards for seat size on commercial airlines. Changes of the bills’ passing may be slim, but the sudden activity is a sign that legislators are heeding the public’s disaffection with the ever expanding list of fees. Fees have been added for pillows, booking on phone, select seats, and perks like priority boarding. The New York Times (subscription required)