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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

June 17, 2008 at 4:18 PM

Jon Shirley finally leaving Microsoft, hopefully not Seattle

Who will step in to play Dumbledore at Microsoft after Jon Shirley retires in November?

Microsoft announced today that the man who has been its elder sage since 1983 is retiring from the board of directors in November.

The former Tandy executive sorted out Microsoft’s early management and business challenges and laid the foundation for its amazing growth in the 1990s while serving as president and chief operating officer from 1983 to 1990.

Shirley also served on the board since 1983, longer than anyone besides Gates and venture capitalist David Marquardt, who joined in 1981.

The Medina resident decided not to seek re-election at the annual shareholders meeting in November. His statement in the press release:

“Having turned 70-years-old this year, I’m at a point in my life where I want to reduce my professional commitments and allow more time pursuing some of my personal interests. I could only make this decision knowing that Microsoft is well-positioned for success in the years ahead. I have the utmost confidence in the leadership of Microsoft and believe we have established the strongest board in the history of the company.”

Chief Executive Steve Ballmer said in the release, “We are grateful for his incredible leadership and dedication and fully understand his desire to retire considering his extensive service to the company.”

After becoming one of the richest men in the world, Shirley became one of the more generous Microsoft megamillionaires, supporting the arts in particular. He is chairman of the board of trustees at the Seattle Art Museum, where his biggest project so far was instigating the Olympic Sculpture Park — after deciding in 2005 to share his collection.

The Jon and Mary Shirley Foundation, formed with his wife, gave away $9 million in 2006, including $8.7 million to arts and cultural organizations.

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