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IBM Appoints Successor to CEO Samuel Palmisano

In a rare changing of the guard at one of the largest companies in the IT industry, IBM on Tuesday announced it has appointed Virginia Rometty as president and CEO, effective Jan. 1. Samuel Palmisano, IBM's current CEO, will remain chairman.

Palmisano's reign at IBM lasted nearly a decade, spanning a period of spectacular growth for the company despite a tailspin in the economy. Palmisano made some big bets as CEO, including divesting the company's PC, printing and disk drive businesses and shifting to enterprise software and services, while also maintaining steady growth in IBM's hardware and mainframe businesses.

He engineered the acquisition of PriceWaterhouseCoopers Consulting, propelling IBM's emphasis on IT and business consulting and services.

Rometty, 54, joined IBM in 1981 as a systems engineer and worked her way through the ranks. She is currently senior vice president and group executive for sales, marketing and strategy and is responsible for IBM's worldwide revenues, which topped $99 billion last year. 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 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 brief tenure lasted only 11 months. While HP is larger than IBM in terms of revenues, IBM 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, while suggesting she plans no immediate shifts in strategy. "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.