After taking a 10-month sabbatical from his job as president of Microsoft Canada, Frank Clegg announced in late 2005 that he would not return, ending 15 years with the Redmond, Washington-based software giant. During that time, he grew the Toronto-based Canadian subsidiary from 90 employees and $55 million in revenue to more than 700 employees and $1.2 billion in sales. While the 51-year-old executive is hardly in need of cash, Clegg explains why he's not logging out just yet.
Why are you leaving Microsoft?
My next role would have been a move to Redmond or something with an international responsibility, which would have required even more travelling than I was doing before. At this stage of my life, I had been there, done that. My youngest daughter is in high school in Oakville [just outside Toronto] My family is very well settled. The other decision was I didn't want to run another company. I've been running a [profit-and-loss]statement for the past 25 years and really didn't want to pursue a CEO job in another organization.
But you recently became chairman of Navantis, an IT firm with 140 employees. How does that fit in?
There is an opportunity to grow this company to the next level. My title is chairman which means my job is not operational, but to serve as coach and adviser. I'm also on the board of Indigo Books and Music and there is a lot of opportunity to work with Heather Reisman and her team. As well, I want to continue my involvement with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. I'm going to sit down with the CNIB team and figure out what role I can play to help visually impaired people on a worldwide basis.
Will you have trouble coping with more time on your hands? I don't know, to be honest with you. It is something I'm struggling with. I saw my dad retire too early and I don't want to do that.
Do you think you'll have a future role with Microsoft? There is some discussion about keeping me on a contract basis. We have worked with 26 law enforcement agencies across the country on a child exploitation tracking system. The folks in Redmond say there are some really good things we are doing as corporate citizens.
What about venture capital? You invested in The DocSpace Co., a Toronto tech firm that was sold at the peak of the late-'90s boom. How well did you do?
Beyond my wildest dreams. I've been approached about venture capital but I don't think it's something I'm good at or interested in right now. To be honest, a former Microsoft colleague named Ken Nickerson got me involved with DocSpace, so I had a very limited role.
From Microsoft and other investments, what are you worth--$100 million or so? I'm not going to give you the number, but not that much.
You listed your house in Oakville for a reported $29 million last year. Did it sell?
Yes, we were really lucky. A fellow came in and it closed in 30 days.
Why did you want to get rid of it? We had fallen in love with the land and got carried away with the house. We actually knocked the main house down and rebuilt. But my wife, Davida, got sick; she has a sensitivity to any chemicals. When you build a new house, it is a recipe for disaster, with paints, stains, new carpet and all that stuff. She had a very serious attack and we almost lost her. It took us a year and a half to find out what the issue was. We found a place in Oakville that was three years old; we took out any offending things and used natural-based paints and stains. It's part of the reason I don't want to go to Redmond. I don't want to go through this process again
How do you see your story providing any lessons to other people who want to slow down?
I feel very blessed, being in a situation where I can make this decision to do whatever I want, and not have to worry about financial considerations. I'm not a normal case study. I'm not pretending to be one.