Virginia “Ginni” Rometty, a pioneering icon in the technology space and chief executive of IBM for the last eight years, will be stepping down. Rometty is the chair, president and CEO and was the first woman to lead the world-renowned company. According to a company press release, she will relinquish her title after tirelessly working her way up the company and, ultimately, running IBM. She intends to remain the company’s executive chairman through the end of the year, at which time, she will retire.
Rometty, 62, spent about 40 years of her career at Big Blue—a nickname for IBM. She started out as a systems engineer in 1981, then headed global sales, marketing and strategy and progressed to chief executive of the company. She is one of only about 29 female CEOs of S&P 500 companies.
Rometty was a hands-on and proactive CEO. She initiated bold moves to to reposition IBM, which included acquiring 65 companies, contributing to the growth of hybrid cloud, security, industry and data, artificial intelligence, quantum computing and blockchain. She presided over the Red Hat acquisition, one of the largest acquisitions in the company’s 108-year history, in an effort to fast-track IBM’s revival in a brutally competitive environment.
The board of directors elected Arvind Krishna to replace Rometty as CEO and appointed him as a member of the board of directors, effective April 6. Krishna is IBM’s senior vice president for cloud and cognitive Software. Rometty said of her successor, “Arvind is the right CEO for the next era at IBM.” She graciously extolled his virtues by adding, “He is a brilliant technologist who has played a significant role in developing our key technologies, such as artificial intelligence, cloud, quantum computing and blockchain. He is also a superb operational leader, able to win today while building the business of tomorrow.”
Unfortunately, IBM shares significantly underperformed compared to its peers during Rometty’s time as CEO. Since January 2012, at the time of her commencement as CEO, to the announcement of her retirement, the share price of IBM’s stock declined -4%—versus a 208% return for the S&P 500. By comparison, Microsoft’s shares rocketed to over 500% during the same time period. The tech-oriented Nasdaq Composite Index increased a resounding 250% over that same time. The stock price of IBM rose 3% in aftermarket trading upon her announcement.