Shake-up at IBM as Whitehurst steps down as president

5 Jul 2021

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Jim Whitehurst was CEO of Red Hat during IBM’s $34bn acquisition of the company and aided the merger of the two.

There has been a shake-up at the head of the table at IBM with Jim Whitehurst stepping down as president after a little more than a year.

Whitehurst became president of IBM 14 months ago following Big Blue’s $34bn acquisition of Red Hat, where Whitehurst was CEO. He played a key role in completing the merger and ensuring the significant transition ran smoothly.

In a blog post, IBM chief executive Arvind Krishna said that Whitehurst will continue as a senior adviser but provided no reason for his early exit from the president’s chair.

“Jim has been instrumental in articulating IBM’s strategy, but also in ensuring that IBM and Red Hat work well together and that our technology platforms and innovations provide more value to our clients,” Krishna said.

It marks another major leadership shift at IBM as it undergoes a transformation under the guidance of Krishna, spinning out its IT infrastructure business in a bid to focus more on sectors such as AI and cloud.

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Following the acquisition of Red Hat, Krishna took the reins from IBM veteran Ginni Rometty. With Whitehurst becoming president, Paul Cormier took over leadership at Red Hat.

Whitehurst isn’t the only big exit at the company. Bridget van Kralingen has also stepped down from her role as senior vice-president of global markets.

Krishna described her as being a critical player in helping him with his transition to CEO. She will remain in her other role of senior vice-president of special projects for a year before she retires.

Under Krishna’s leadership, IBM has fiercely pursued a strategy focused on the cloud for the long term.

After four straight quarters of revenue decline in 2020, IBM turned the tide with an increase in revenues to $17.7bn for the first quarter of 2021. Sales in its cloud computing division contributed to the bump.

IBM recently acquired cloud consultancy Waeg to assist with this strategy further.

Jonathan Keane is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Dublin

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