Moving forward. That's the title of an internal memo that went out to Microsoft employees this morning. While internal memos are nothing special at Microsoft, today's memo was probably the most important one of the decade. Today, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced his plans to retire within the next 12 months.
In the memo, he says that there's never a perfect time for this type of transition but right now he feels it is the right time. He goes on to refer to his recent restructuring initiative and says that the time is now right for the company to face the new opportunities and challenges ahead. He mentions that in his time at Microsoft, they have grown from a $7.5 million company to a corporation worth more than $78 billion. He said that when he first started, they employed just over 30 people and now they write paychecks to almost 100,000 individuals.
Ballmer concluded that by saying this is a very emotional event for him and that he knows Microsoft has its best days ahead and that he takes pride in being one of the largest owners of the company. I speak for all of us here at TweakTown when I wish Mr. Ballmer nothing but the best in whatever endeavors the future holds for him. It's kind of sad to see him go, but we look forward to seeing what new leadership may bring to the Redmond, Washington-based computing giant known as Microsoft. I have posted the entire retirement announcement memo below.
I am writing to let you know that I will retire as CEO of Microsoft within the next 12 months, after a successor is chosen. There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time. My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our transformation to a devices and services company focused on empowering customers in the activities they value most. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction. You can read the press release on Microsoft News Center.
This is a time of important transformation for Microsoft. Our new Senior Leadership team is amazing. The strategy we have generated is first class. Our new organization, which is centered on functions and engineering areas, is right for the opportunities and challenges ahead.
Microsoft is an amazing place. I love this company. I love the way we helped invent and popularize computing and the PC. I love the bigness and boldness of our bets. I love our people and their talent and our willingness to accept and embrace their range of capabilities, including their quirks. I love the way we embrace and work with other companies to change the world and succeed together. I love the breadth and diversity of our customers, from consumer to enterprise, across industries, countries, and people of all backgrounds and age groups.
I am proud of what we have achieved. We have grown from $7.5 million to nearly $78 billion since I joined Microsoft, and we have grown from employing just over 30 people to almost 100,000. I feel good about playing a role in that success and having committed 100 percent emotionally all the way. We have more than 1 billion users and earn a great profit for our shareholders. We have delivered more profit and cash return to shareholders than virtually any other company in history.
I am excited by our mission of empowering the world and believe in our future success. I cherish my Microsoft ownership, and look forward to continuing as one of Microsoft's largest owners.
This is an emotional and difficult thing for me to do. I take this step in the best interests of the company I love; it is the thing outside of my family and closest friends that matters to me most.
Microsoft has all its best days ahead. Know you are part of the best team in the industry and have the right technology assets. We cannot and will not miss a beat in these transitions. I am focused and driving hard and know I can count on all of you to do the same. Let's do ourselves proud.