It's official: Palmisano will take IBM helm

[JANUARY 29, 2002] -- In a long-anticipated move, IBM's board of directors elected Samuel Palmisano as CEO of the company effective March 1. He succeeds Louis Gerstner, who will remain IBM chairman through the end of the year. Palmisano, who is currently IBM's president and COO, will continue to hold the title of president.

Gerstner's exit is sure to mark the end of an era at IBM. Many viewers give him credit for reviving a company seen as adrift under the management of his predecessor, John Akers. After taking over in 1993, Gerstner decided against a major company breakup -- one recommended by many industry experts. The firm gained market share in such areas as servers, software, storage and microelectronics during the Gerstner years.

Coming from outside the ranks of high technology, Gerstner surprised many with his apparent technology savvy. Under his watch, IBM embraced such new development and operating system technologies as Java, XML and Linux.

Palmisano became president and chief operating officer at IBM in September 2000 after holding management positions in several of IBM's operating units, including a stint as head of IBM Global Services.

In addition, IBM announced that John M. Thompson, IBM vice chairman, will retire from the company and board on September 1. Thompson managed IBM's acquisitions of Lotus Development Corp. and Tivoli Systems. He also served as president and CEO of IBM Canada during the late 1980s.