IBM Corp. has unexpectedly changed CEOs. That ends speculation that Sam Palmisano, who turned 60 this year, would stay on past the traditional age of retirement for the technology company's captains.
Palmisano, who has been chief executive for nearly a decade and is staying on as chairman, is being replaced by IBM's first female CEO, Virginia "Ginni" Rometty. She is in charge of IBM's sales and marketing and has long been whispered about by industry watchers as Palmisano's likely heir.
Rometty's appointment, effective Jan. 1, means that women will be in charge of two of the world's biggest technology companies.
Last month, Meg Whitman was named CEO of Hewlett-Packard Co.
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 that the company would 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's appointment will make IBM the largest company with a woman at the helm, surpassing PepsiCo Inc., headed by Indra Nooyi.