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Ballmer steps down from Microsoft board

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is stepping down from the company's board, bringing to a close 34 years with the software giant. Ballmer says he plans to devote more time to his ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers, civic contributions, teaching and study. Microsoft published Ballmer's resignation letter on its website Tuesday along with a response from current CEO Satya Nadella thanking him and wishing him well. The 58-year-old says he plans to hold on to his Microsoft stock and will continue to offer feedback on products and strategy. With 333.3 million shares worth $15 billion, Ballmer's 4 percent stake in the company makes him the largest individual holder of Microsoft shares. A few institutional investors hold slightly more. "I bleed Microsoft — have for 34 years and I always will," Ballmer wrote. "I will be proud, and I will benefit through my share ownership. I promise to support and encourage boldness by management in my role as a shareholder in any way I can." Ballmer stepped down as chief executive in February, and since then Microsoft shares have risen about 24 percent. He says his resignation from the board is timely as the company prepares for its next shareholder meeting set for sometime this fall. Nadella thanked Ballmer for his support during the transition period and used the opportunity to reiterate the company's new focus on mobile devices and cloud computing. "Under your leadership, we created an incredible foundation that we continue to build on — and Microsoft will thrive in the mobile-first, cloud-first world," Nadella said. Ballmer's departure leaves the board with 10 members. It has no immediate plans to replace him. The company adds a new board member about once every year or so. The most recent addition was John Stanton, chairman of wireless technology investment fund Trilogy Equity Partners, in July. ___ Online: Ballmer letter: http://bit.ly/YvzjH7

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