Note: The Skinny blog is written by Rick Smith, editor and co-founder of Local Tech Wire and business editor of

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – At age 59, IBM (NYSE: IBM) Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Sam Palmisano is nearing traditional Big Blue top exec age of 60. And on Monday, the company clarified a bit just who might succeed him.

In the months since an insider trading scandal sidelined heir-apparent and former Raleigh resident Robert Moffat, just who might succeed Palmisano if he chooses to step down has been a big source of conjecture.

The New York Times reports that Palmisano wrote in an e-mail to employees that the changes "were intended to improve the company’s products and services … For example, computer hardware and software are for the first time being placed under the oversight of one executive."

The four execs whose roles were redefined Monday, as reported by The Associated Press:

• Steve Mills, who has been leading IBM’s software division, now also is in charge of hardware.

• Chief Financial Officer Mark Loughridge has been given an expanded role in finance

• Mike Daniels, who is in charge of technology services, will now be in charge of IBM’s entire services business

• Ginni Rometty, who oversees sales, has added marketing and strategy.

Bloomberg reported recently that Rometty could be IBM’s first female chief executive.

“One leading candidate is Ginni Rometty, who has overseen IBM’s sales effort for more than a year," Bloomberg noted. "Before that, she headed global business services where she spearheaded the integration of PwC Consulting, the company’s second-largest acquisition and a key step in shifting its strategic focus to services.”

Interestingly, Monday’s shuffle didn’t include Rod Adkins, who replaced Moffat as head of IBM’s technology group.

Talk about Rometty and Adkins raised “the possibility of the first female or first black CEO in the 99-year-old company’s history,” Bloomberg noted.

In that May report, Bloomberg noted that “Palmisano hasn’t named a president or chief operating officer, which may be evidence he doesn’t plan to step down at 60. That hasn’t stopped speculation about the succession in the halls of the company’s Armonk, New York, headquarters.”

Palmisano became CEO in 2002, moving up from the COO spot, and added the chairman title later that year.

The changes were disclosed after that exceeded analysts’ expectations.

Place your bets.

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