Einhorn Calls for Ballmer to Exit at Microsoft

Hedge fund heavyweight David Einhorn reportedly called for the ouster of Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer, becoming the highest-profile investor to publicly demand a change at the top of the world’s largest software maker.

According to Reuters, Einhorn, who leads Greenlight Capital, said it’s time for Ballmer to step aside and “give someone else a chance.”

Greenlight owns about 9 million shares of Microsoft, representing 0.9% of the company’s outstanding stock.

The comments come just days after IBM (NASDAQ:IBM) passed Microsoft in market cap for the first time in 15 years. While much of the tech world has soared, Microsoft’s stock has been stagnant and is worth only one-third of what it was at its height in December 1999.

Ballmer succeeded Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates in 2000 as CEO.

"His continued presence is the biggest overhang on Microsoft's stock," Einhorn said on Wednesday at the annual Ira Sohn Investment Research Conference in New York, according to Reuters.

Ballmer has also been criticized for the $8.5 billion he shelled out to acquire Skype earlier this month in what was Microsoft’s largest acquisition ever. Some analysts believe Microsoft overvalued

Skype and it appears the company could have been acquired for several billion dollars less.

Einhorn is considered one of the more influential hedge fund managers as he was one of the most vocal skeptics of Lehman Brothers before it crumbled in 2008. He held a short position on Lehman’s stock in 2007, meaning he bet it would lose value.

Shares of Microsoft jumped 0.95% to $24.42 ahead of the opening bell Thursday, putting them on pace to cut their 13% 2011 loss.

Separately, Einhorn has agreed to acquire less than 49% of the struggling New York Mets for about $200 million, ESPN reported.