Steve Ballmer doesn’t sit still. When he was on stage at the Wall Street Journal’s WSJ.D Live conference in Southern California Wednesday, he constantly shifted in his seat, jumped up a few times, stole his interview partner’s notebook and even broke out in song not once, but twice. So it’s not a big surprise that Ballmer’s life hasn’t exactly been quiet ever since he stepped down as Microsoft CEO.
Sure, first he spent some time at home, binge-watching The Good Wife, all seventy hours of it. And he had his moments of uncertainty. “This is actually a little scary … where you step out of … what you know,” he admitted Wednesday, right after yet another song rendition. That’s why he decided to make a list of seven things he wants to accomplish. “And I’m working on my list,” he quipped.
Then he shared three of those goals:
1. Buy a basketball team
That one worked out well for Ballmer: He approached the NBA about his intention earlier this year, and really wanted to either run a team in Los Angeles and Seattle. Neither seemed an option, until Donald Sterling was forced to sell the LA Clippers as a result of his racist remarks.
On Wednesday, Ballmer was enthusiastic about the Clippers, but he also said that running a basketball team has a lot more to do with technology than people might think. One example: Every basketball arena in the U.S. has six ceiling-mounted cameras to record every move, and Ballmer teamed up with a Los Angeles-based startup to analyze all that motion and use that knowledge to beat the competition. Plus, marketing a sports team is almost as hard as unveiling a hardware or software product, he argued with a smirk: “It’s kind of like doing a real consumer product launch.”
2. Become an active Microsoft investor, not an activist
Ballmer still owns 4 percent of [company]Microsoft[/company] and recently joined his first-ever investor call — something he never did during his 14-year run as CEO. (His successor Satya Nadella has been on both earnings calls since he assumed the top slot in February.) Ballmer wants to keep afloat of things, is reading analyst reports, and believes the company is in great shape. Oh, and he doesn’t want to sell his shares until he dies, or decides to give them all away.
Ballmer didn’t spend a whole lot of time reflecting on his past at Microsoft,, quipping: “I’m sort of tired looking back.” However, he did have one piece of advice for his successor: “Invest in big bold things.” He added that Microsoft has done just that by acquiring Nokia, launching the Surface 3 and keeping the Xbox division — all bets that may not pay off immediately. “You gotta drive, you gotta be long term,” he said.
3: Change the country for the better
“I am interested in how I can make a difference in terms of civic impact in the United States,” Ballmer said. That’s why he has been meeting with folks in Washington D.C., and trying to figure out how he could be most effective. Sure, he could give away a lot of his money, but he argued that this would still be dwarfed by the 6 trillion dollars the federal government as well as state and local governments spend every year.
So now, he is looking into ways to make government spending more effective. One area he specifically mentioned was health care. The U.S. spends more on health care than France’s entire GDP, said Ballmer, and yet, our health care system is far behind many other countries. “It sounds like an interesting problem to work on,” he said, without really going into details on what his role might be.
One thing is clear: Running for office is not on Steve Ballmer’s seven-point list. “No, that will never happen,” he said.