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Palmisano Resigns, IBM Appoints Virginia Rometty

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IBM’s long-time chief said Tuesday he is giving up day-to-day management of the computer giant and consultancy after nearly 10 years at the helm. The company’s board, in somewhat of a surprise, appointed Big Blue’s first ever woman CEO to fill the posts he is relinquishing.

Effective Jan. 1, Samuel J. Palmisano has resigned from the posts of CEO and president but will retain his seat as chairman of IBM’s (NYSE: IBM) board, according to a company statement.

In his place, the board chose to elevate an insider, Virginia M. Rometty, who is currently IBM senior vice president and group executive for sales, marketing and strategy, to the dual roles of CEO and president as well as a member 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,” Palmisano said in a statement.

He characterized Rometty as a strategic thinker with a strong customer focus.

“I know the board agrees with me that Ginni is the ideal CEO to lead IBM into its second century,” Palmisano added. IBM just celebrated 100 years in business in mid-June.

Rometty, who has worked at IBM for some 30 years, was previously general manager of IBM’s Global Insurance and Financial Services Sector, where she headed IBM’s business strategy for the worldwide insurance marketplace, with responsibility for marketing, sales and consulting, according to her IBM biography online.

Another company insider, Palmisano joined IBM in 1973, and previous to his roles as CEO and president, he was senior vice president for the Enterprise Systems and Personal Systems groups, according to his IBM biography online.

“During his tenure, IBM exited commoditizing businesses, including PCs, printers and hard disk drives, and greatly increased investments in high-value businesses and technologies,” an IBM statement said. “He has overseen the significant expansion of IBM in the emerging markets of China, India, Brazil, Russia and dozens of other developing countries, transforming IBM from a multinational into a globally integrated enterprise.”

The company announced third quarter revenues for fiscal 2011 last month of $26.2 billion with net income of $4 billion.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing editor at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.

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