New IBM President and CEO: Virginia Rometty

  • October 25, 2011
  • Scott

Well, this was quite a surprise for me – I didn’t expect Sam to step down from the CEO spot at IBM just yet.  But perhaps one of the signs of a strong company is not waiting for signs of trouble to initiate the transition from one generation of management to the next- but simply moving forward when the time is right.

IBM’s official announcement:

Armonk, NY, October 25, 2011 – The IBM board of directors has elected Virginia M. Rometty president and chief executive officer of the company, effective January 1, 2012. She was also elected a member of the board of directors, effective at that time. Ms. Rometty is currently IBM senior vice president and group executive for sales, marketing and strategy. She succeeds Samuel J. Palmisano, who currently is IBM chairman, president and chief executive officer. Mr. Palmisano will remain chairman of the board.

“Ginni Rometty has successfully led several of IBM’s most important businesses over the past decade—from the formation of IBM Global Business Services to the build-out of our Growth Markets Unit,” Mr. Palmisano said. “But she is more than a superb operational executive. 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.”

I’m also struck by the fact that Rometty arrived at IBM in 1981.  We’re talking about serious longevity at Big Blue.  Under Sam’s watch we’ve seen IBM really go through a makeover of its business – it will be interesting to see if Rometty continues this arc or changes direction over the course of her tenure.  Regardless, I don’t expect IBM to stand still.

The New York Times has coverage of the promotion as well:

The directors’ choice of Ms. Rometty, who managed a crucial merger as well as sales in fast-growing new markets, ends a competition that has been under way for years. The leading candidates were always from within the company’s executive ranks.

A leading rival to succeed Mr. Palmisano, analysts say, was Steven A. Mills, the senior vice president who led I.B.M.’s highly profitable and growing software division. But his age, analysts note, was probably an obstacle. Mr. Mills has just turned 60, the traditional retirement age for I.B.M. chief executives.

Mr. Palmisano, in an interview Tuesday, singled out Mr. Mills for praise, saying “he’s done a phenomenal job.”

Given the traditional retirement age of IBM chief executives I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by Sam stepping down, but it just wasn’t on my radar.  Steve Mills has been a phenomenal leader in the software space at IBM and just more evidence of the deep talent at the top of IBM executive ranks.

Congratulations to IBM and Virgina Rometty!

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