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Microsoft names Smith vice chair, starts $60bn buyback

Company’s stock has risen 35% in 2021.
Image: Jeenah Moon/Getty Images

Microsoft Corp, the world’s largest software maker, appointed president and chief legal officer Brad Smith as vice chair and unveiled a new stock-repurchase programme of as much as $60 billion.

Smith, who joined Microsoft in 1993 and became general counsel in 2002, will continue to report to chairman and chief executive officer Satya Nadella, the Redmond, Washington-based company said Tuesday in a statement. Smith’s new role makes him vice chair of the company, not the board, and he won’t become a director, Microsoft said.

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In recent years, Smith has taken on oversight of an expanding list of policy, government and legal issues at Microsoft, including relations with foreign governments like China, political giving, and programs to expand rural broadband service and access to job skills. He also has been a vocal representative of Microsoft’s views on sustainability, immigration, voting rights, search engine payments for news, and data privacy.

Smith, who spent years working to resolve Microsoft’s antitrust disputes around the world, has so far helped steer the company away from the new wave of regulatory scrutiny that has dogged rivals like Google parent Alphabet Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.

Since Nadella took the helm of Microsoft in 2014, he has revived the company’s leadership in the tech industry by growing in key businesses like cloud computing, mobile applications and artificial intelligence.

The company’s resurgence has given it a market value north of $2.2 trillion and helped it continue to amass a cash pile of more than $130 billion that it has used to fund acquisitions and to boost dividends and buybacks.

The suspected Russian hackers who compromised software created by SolarWinds to break into American agencies and companies used a cyber weapon “so potentially powerful it could have been crippling,” according to the committee’s chairman.

The repurchase authorisation has no expiration date, and may be terminated at any time. The company’s stock has risen 35% in 2021, making it the second-most valuable publicly traded company. Microsoft’s previous buyback plan, unveiled in September 2019, was for $40 billion.

The company also increased its quarterly dividend by 6 cents to 62 cents a share.

© 2021 Bloomberg

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