Microsoft proposes first non-US director for board

Microsoft is to enlarge its board of directors from eight to 10 members, and hopes to appoint its first director from outside the...

Microsoft is to enlarge its board of directors from eight to 10 members, and hopes to appoint its first director from outside the US.

Helmut Panke, chairman of the board of management of BMW, and Charles Noski, the former vice chairman of AT&T, will be put forward for election to the board at the annual shareholders' meeting in November. The Microsoft board also nominated the existing eight directors for re-election.

The move is the latest in a series which seek to improve corporate governance at Microsoft.

Bill Gates, Microsoft's chairman and chief software architect, said Panke would be the company's first director from outside the US, adding that his experience as chairman of one of Europe's most successful companies will be invaluable.

Since May 2002, when Panke became chairman of BMW, that company's stock has outperformed the DAX, an index of the stock prices of Germany's 30 largest companies. During the period its stock fell by around 21%, while the DAX dropped 26%.

Panke is no stranger to North America, having worked as chairman and chief executive officer of BMW in the US from 1993 to 1996.

Noski joined AT&T in 1999, where he worked as chief financial officer before becoming vice chairman of the board in 2002. Following the company's restructuring, he left in November of the same year. Previously, he worked at Hughes Electronics.

He will be invited to serve on Microsoft's audit committee, the statement said.

Only two of the eight existing directors are Microsoft employees: Bill Gates and chief executive officer Steve Ballmer.

The other six are James Cash, a former Harvard Business School professor; Raymond Gilmartin, chairman, president and chief executive officer at Merck.; David Marquardt, general partner at August Capital; Ann McLaughlin Korologos, chairman emeritus of The Aspen Institute and senior advisor at Benedetto and Gartland & Company; William Reed, the former chairman of Simpson Investment and Jon Shirley, former president and chief operating officer of Microsoft.

Peter Sayer writes for IDG News Service

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