IBM CEO Successor Named

Big Blue names Virginia Rometty to CEO position beginning January 1, succeeding Sam Palmisano.

In a rare move by IBM, the computer titan announced today that Virginia Rometty will serve as its next president and CEO beginning January 1. Sam Palmisano, the company's current CEO, will remain as chairman.

Palmisano’s tenure at IBM lasted almost a decade during a period of strong company growth despite a troubled econony and cutbacks in IT budgets around the world. As CEO, Palmisano made several big bets; he divested the company of its PC, printing, and disk drive businesses and initiated a shift to enterprise software and services while maintaining steady growth in Big Blue's hardware and mainframe businesses.

Palmisano also engineered the acquisition of PriceWatherhouseCoopers Consulting, enhancing IBM’s IT and business consulting and services offerings.

Rometty, 54, joined IBM in 1981 and has worked her way up through the ranks. Currently senior vice president and group executive for sales, marketing, and strategy she is responsible for IBM’s worldwide revenues, which exceeded $99 billion in 2010. Prior to that, she oversaw key IBM businesses, including the launch of the company’s Global Business Services and Growth Markets Unit.

“She is more than a superb operational executive,” Palmisano said in a prepared statement. “With every leadership role, she has strengthened our ability to integrate IBM's capabilities for our clients. She has spurred us to keep pace with the needs and aspirations of our clients by deepening our expertise and industry knowledge. Ginni's long-term strategic thinking and client focus are seen in our growth initiatives, from cloud computing and analytics to the commercialization of Watson. She brings to the role of CEO a unique combination of vision, client focus, unrelenting drive, and passion for IBMers and the company's future. I know the board agrees with me that Ginni is the ideal CEO to lead IBM into its second century.”

Rometty is the first woman to lead IBM.  Her appointment comes just over a month after Hewlett-Packard Co. appointed Meg Whitman as its CEO after cutting loose Leo Apotheker, whose leadership lasted only 11 months. Although HP has larger revenues than IBM, Big Blue has a larger footprint in the enterprise and has experienced less turmoil over the past decade.

“There is no greater privilege in business than to be asked to lead IBM, especially at this moment,” Rometty said in a statement.  She suggested that she has no no immediate plans for strategy shifts. “Today, IBM's strategies and business model are correct. Our ability to execute and deliver consistent results for clients and shareholders is strong.”

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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