The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said Monday that Microsoft Corp. executive Jeff Raikes will take over in September as chief executive of the world's largest charitable foundation.
The foundation has been looking for a new leader since chief executive Patty Stonesifer announced in February that she would step down.
Raikes has been president in Microsoft's business software division, responsible for such things as the Office software suite, Microsoft's server software and applications that help businesses track customers and business processes.
In the past decade, the Gates Foundation has given away more than $16 billion, mostly in global health, global development and U.S. education.
Raikes will be the foundation's second leader since its inception in 1997. He has much in common with Stonesifer, another former Microsoft executive and friend of Bill and Melinda Gates, the co-chairs of their family foundation, which now has more than 500 employees and an endowment of $37.3 billion.
"I'm absolutely thrilled to be joining the Gates Foundation," Raikes said Monday. "This is truly a dream job."
Melinda Gates said that when their friend Raikes expressed interest in the job, his selection was far from a done deal, however.
'The right leadership qualities'
Raikes, 49, who announced in January he was retiring from Microsoft in September, said he thought before Stonesifer's announcement that he would like to play a role in the foundation's future but was unsure what he would like to do.
He went through the same screening process as the more than 150 other candidates. As a finalist, he was interviewed by top executives of the foundation and needed the blessing of the foundation's third-biggest donor, Warren Buffett, head of Omaha, Neb.-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
Melinda Gates said she and her husband each interviewed "quite a few" candidates, but they kept coming back to the same idea.
"We really wanted to find someone to build the organization as it was," she said. "We saw in Jeff the right leadership qualities."
Raikes, who grew up in Nebraska, said he met Buffett years ago when the Gateses and Buffett came to his farm and accompanied him to a Nebraska Cornhuskers football game.
He said both his experience at Microsoft and his volunteer work with various nonprofit organizations give him many of the skills he will need to run the foundation. But he acknowledged he has much to learn.
"At Microsoft, the magic of software is used to take on very interesting challenges. Here, you have a similar situation, where the use of technology ... and systems thinking is used to take on very complex problems in society," Raikes said.
Talking it over with daughter
He had to overcome two obstacles before deciding to take the job: his daughter's desire to have her father spend more time at home and his own concern about the way he would respond to daily exposure to human misery.
Raikes said a long talk with his daughter resolved the first concern and a talk with Melinda Gates made him feel better about the second.
Raikes earned a bachelor's degree in engineering and economic systems at Stanford University. After a brief stint at Apple Inc., he joined Microsoft in 1981, working as director of software applications marketing, where he helped design and market Microsoft Office, the world's top-selling suite of office software.
He became vice president of Office Systems in 1990. From 1992 to 2000, he was responsible for Microsoft's sales, marketing and service initiatives, becoming vice president of Microsoft's Worldwide Sales and Support Group. In 2000, he returned to the business groups to focus on growing Microsoft's productivity applications.
His volunteer work has focused on education and children's issues. His and his wife's family foundation addresses youth development, education and community issues.
Raikes joined other Seattle business leaders in 1992 to purchase the Seattle Mariners baseball club.
He served on the board of directors of the Software Publishers Association from 1987 to 1993 and twice served as chairman of the board. Raikes also served on the board of the Washington Technology Center.
Patty Stonesifer has refused to draw a salary during her 11 years at the foundation, but Melinda Gates said the new CEO will be paid according to foundation industry standards.