Palmisano Takes the Reins at Big Blue

Sam Palmisano is taking over as CEO of IBM Corp. on March 1, succeeding Lou Gerstner. Palmisano is currently president and COO of Big Blue.

When Palmisano took on the role of president and COO in September 2000, most observers speculated he was being groomed as Gerstner’s successor.

Palmisano joined IBM as a sales representative in 1973. He led a number of units at IBM, including IBM Global Services, where he grew revenues by nearly 30 percent. An IBM statement also credits Palmisano with IBM’s newfound Linux focus, and the eServer product line.

“Sam’s unique mix of strategic vision, passion and discipline, combined with his intimate understanding of IBM, make him the right person to become IBM’s next CEO,” Gerstner said in a statement.

Gerstner will remain as chairman of IBM’s board through the end of this year.

Coming from RJR Nabisco, where he served as chairman and CEO, Gerstner began as IBM’s CEO in April 1993. He led the struggling company to focus on returning to an innovative role in the IT market. Before his tenure, IBM was still dealing with issues resulting from an antitrust consent decree, which led the company to become bureaucratic and legalistic.

IBM also announced vice chairman John M. Thompson would step down as IBM’s vice chairman on September 1. IBM credits Thompson with Big Blue’s software group’s success, including its position in the middleware market. In addition, he led the acquisitions of Lotus Development Corp. and Tivoli Systems, Inc.