Tags: ibm | palmisano | Rometty | CEO

IBM Gets 1st Woman CEO as Palmisano Steps Down

Tuesday, 25 Oct 2011 05:06 PM

International Business Machines Corp. said Virginia “Ginni” Rometty will succeed Sam Palmisano as chief executive officer, becoming the first female CEO in the company’s 100-year history.

Rometty, IBM’s head of sales and marketing, will take the president and CEO posts effective Jan. 1, the Armonk, New York-based company said in a statement Tuesday. Palmisano, who’s been CEO since 2002, will remain chairman.

Rometty, 54, takes the reins after IBM celebrated its centennial and as steady profit growth pushed the shares this year to the highest level since the company went public in 1915. Her experience in sales, services and acquisitions fits with the strategic direction set by Palmisano, who said last year the company will add $20 billion to revenue between 2010 and 2015 by expanding in markets such as cloud computing and analytics.

“She is more than a superb operational executive,” Palmisano said in the statement. “With every leadership role, she has strengthened our ability to integrate IBM’s capabilities for our clients.”

The 30-year IBM veteran caught Palmisano’s attention in 2002 when she helped integrate the $3.9 billion acquisition of PwC Consulting, IBM’s largest deal ever at the time.

Rometty, then a general manager of the consulting unit, is credited with helping to retain PwC’s principal consultants, who didn’t always mesh with IBM’s cost-cutting culture. When Palmisano wanted to cut travel budgets, making consultants stay at Holiday Inns, she helped them fight -- and win, said Ric Andersen, a former PwC consultant who joined IBM with the acquisition.

Sales Promotion

Palmisano promoted her to senior vice president of the group in 2005, and she boosted profit at the unit 42 percent in her first two years on the job. During her three decades at IBM, she became known as a polished executive who can close a sale, expanding relationships with companies from State Farm Insurance Co. to Prudential Financial Inc.

“She’s an engaging woman -- great with customers,” said Fred Amoroso, who was her boss in the financial-services consulting division during the 1990s. “Customers just love Ginni.”

Amid the recession, Palmisano put her in charge of running the company’s almost $100 billion in sales. Last year, she added marketing and strategy to her responsibilities.

Succeeding Palmisano would make IBM the largest company with a woman at the helm, surpassing PepsiCo Inc., headed by Indra Nooyi.

Palmisano turned 60 in July, the age at which three of the past four IBM chiefs have stepped down. He’s IBM’s longest- serving CEO who doesn’t share the surname of the company’s founder, Thomas J. Watson.

Vastly Different Business

He will leave a business vastly different than the one he took over. In his first year at the helm, he bought PwC Consulting, and two years later, he sold off the PC business. Those moves coupled with more than $25 billion in software acquisitions helped Palmisano realign what was once the largest computer company into a services and software powerhouse.

The maneuvers made the company predictably profitable, boosting per-share profit for more than 30 straight quarters. Since 2001, Palmisano’s boosted sales by 20 percent, while keeping costs of the 426,000-employee behemoth little changed.

Closest Rival

Rometty grew up in a Chicago suburb, the oldest of four children. In 1979, she got a degree in computer science and electrical engineering from Northwestern University and headed to an internship with General Motors in Detroit, where she met her husband, Mark. After her internship, she joined IBM. She now splits her time between homes in White Plains, New York, and Bonita Springs, Florida, where she and Mark are avid scuba divers.

This month at Fortune magazine’s Power Women Summit, Rometty said she learned shortly after beginning to work that she needed to take risks to advance.

“Really early, early in my career, I can remember being offered a big job,” she said. “Right away I said, ‘You know what? I’m not ready for this job.”

That night “as I’m telling my husband about this, he just looked at me and he said, ‘Do you think a man would have ever answered that question that way?” she said. “What that taught me was you have to be very confident even though you’re so self- critical inside. Growth and comfort do not coexist.”

Commencement Speech

In a commencement speech at her alma mater last year, she explained why she has stayed at IBM as she encouraged the graduating students to seek the largest challenges.

“You have the skills that can be applied to some of the world’s most significant challenges,” she said. “I know that is what has always drawn me to, and kept me at IBM. IBM’s long- standing mantra is ‘Think.’ What has always made IBM a fascinating and compelling place for me, is the passion of the company, and its people, to apply technology and scientific thinking to major societal issues.”

“Every day I get to “Think” and work on everything from digitizing electric grids so they can accommodate renewable energy and enable mass adoption of electric cars, helping major cities reduce congestion and pollution, to developing new micro- finance programs that help tiny businesses get started in markets such as Brazil, India, Africa,” she said. “After 30 years, I’m genuinely excited to get up and apply those problem- solving skills in ways I would never have imagined when I was sitting where you are.”

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International Business Machines Corp. said Virginia Ginni Rometty will succeed Sam Palmisano as chief executive officer, becoming the first female CEO in the company s 100-year history. Rometty, IBM s head of sales and marketing, will take the president and CEO posts...
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2011-06-25
Tuesday, 25 Oct 2011 05:06 PM
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