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Steve Ballmer Unloads $1.3 Billion In Microsoft Stocks

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Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer has sold about $1.3 billion worth of his company shares recently, the first time he's done so in seven years.

Ballmer confirmed the stock sales Friday and said they were made to diversify his investments and aid his year-end tax planning. He said he plans to sell as many as 75 million shares by year's end. Securities and Exchange Commission filings by Ballmer this week show he sold about 50 million shares.

Ballmer still holds about 350 million shares, worth some $9 billion at Microsoft's current price of around $26. Ballmer issued a statement "to avoid any confusion," saying he was excited about the Microsoft's new products and is fully committed to the company.

In a rare move, Microsoft issued the statement on Ballmer's behalf, likely looking to head off any speculation that the sale of a substantial block of his shares indicated anything negative about the company. Ballmer heads the powerful software giant and is also one of the biggest names in U.S. business

"Even though this is a personal financial matter, I want to be clear about this to avoid any confusion," Ballmer said in the statement. "I am excited about our new products and the potential for our technology to change people's lives, and I remain fully committed to Microsoft and its success."

In a gathering with technology workers last month, Ballmer dismissed suggestions that Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft needs to take differing approaches to technology for consumers and business users. People want the same technology at work as they do at home, he said. Ballmer also said he has no plans to retire anytime soon.

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