Doug Burgum led Great Plains Software, which Microsoft purchased in 2001. Burgum then went on to head Microsoft’s business-software unit until 2007.

Share story

Former Microsoft executive Doug Burgum is running for governor in his home state of North Dakota.

Burgum, 59, made the announcement on Thursday. He’s running as a Republican and joining the candidates vying to replace retiring Gov. Jack Dalrymple.

Burgum was the chief executive of Fargo, N.D.-based Great Plains Software, which Microsoft acquired in 2001 for $1.1 billion. He spent the next six years with Microsoft and subsequently founded an organization focused on revitalizing downtown Fargo, as well as Arthur Ventures, a venture-capital firm.

“I’m sort of uniquely positioned to help guide the state to a better spot in terms of how we use technology to improve the private sector and improve the delivery of government services,” Burgum said in an interview. “We do have this history in this state where there’s a willingness (among) voters to take a look at business leaders” for elected office, he said.

Great Plains, which developed software for small-business tasks, served as the foundation for Microsoft’s move in the following years into business-focused software beyond its Office productivity suite.

Burgum stayed on after the deal, remaining based in Fargo, where Microsoft to this day is a large employer.

When Burgum left Microsoft in 2007, he was replaced as the chief of Microsoft Business Solutions by Satya Nadella, who had worked under Burgum for more than six years. Nadella, after a couple of subsequent stops elsewhere in Microsoft’s leadership ranks, was named chief executive in 2014.

“I said then that this is a guy who can someday run the company,” Burgum said. “It was fun to see it proved out. He’s an incredible human being. I think he’s an amazing leader. I would consider him a great friend.”

Burgum, if elected, would join a cluster of Microsoft alumni who have gone on to state or national politics.

In Congress, former Microsoft executive Rep. Suzan DelBene represents a district that stretches from Redmond to the Canadian border. Ross Hunter, a former program manager who was a longtime Democratic member of the Washington state House, left that post recently to head the Washington State Department of Early Learning. Andy Hill, a former group manager, is a Republican state senator and the body’s chief budget writer.

“There’s a Teddy Roosevelt quote about, ‘The great prize in life is to work hard at work worth doing,’ ” Burgum said. “And I’ve felt that the work I’ve done at Great Plains and Microsoft and other software companies had great purpose; you can change lives.”