ARMONK, N.Y. — After months of speculation, IBM has unveiled its new executive leadership team. Virginia Rometty is stepping down as its chief executive effective April 6. She will remain as executive chairman of the board until she retires at the end of the year after 40 years with the company.

Big Blue announced on Thursday that Arvind Krishna, who is currently IBM senior vice president for Cloud  and Cognitive Software, will take her place. He was a principal architect of the company’s acquisition of Red Hat.

James Whitehurst, IBM’s senior vice president and CEO of Red Hat, will also step up as president.

“Arvind is the right CEO for the next era at IBM,” said Rometty in a statement. “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.  Arvind has grown IBM’s Cloud and Cognitive Software business and led the largest acquisition in the company’s history. Through his multiple experiences running businesses in IBM, Arvind has built an outstanding track record of bold transformations and proven business results, and is an authentic, values-driven leader.  He is well-positioned to lead IBM and its clients into the cloud and cognitive era.”

Cloud-focused leadership

Krishna, 57, currently leads the IBM business unit that provides the cloud and data platform on which IBM’s clients build the future.  His responsibilities also include the IBM Cloud, IBM Security and Cognitive Applications business, and IBM Research.  Previously, he was general manager of IBM’s Systems and Technology Group’s development and manufacturing organization.  Prior to that he built and led many of IBM’s data-related businesses.  He has an undergraduate degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, and a PhD. in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  He joined IBM in 1990.

“Arvind thinks and executes squarely at the intersection of business and technology,” said Alex Gorsky, Chairman of the Board’s Executive Compensation and Management Resources Committee, in a statement. “He is an ideal leader to succeed Ginni and take IBM and its clients into the next chapter of the cloud and cognitive era.  Jim has been a great addition to IBM’s leadership team.  His considerable business and leadership skills will help IBM grow and flourish, and as President he will help Arvind and IBM continue to accelerate and scale the benefits of Red Hat, while ensuring that Red Hat also preserves its unique culture and commitment to open source innovation.”

“I am thrilled and humbled to be elected as the next Chief Executive Officer of IBM, and appreciate the confidence that Ginni and the Board have placed in me,” said Krishna.  “IBM has such talented people and technology that we can bring together to help our clients solve their toughest problems.  I am looking forward to working with IBMers, Red Hatters and clients around the world at this unique time of fast-paced change in the IT industry.  We have great opportunities ahead to help our clients advance the transformation of their business while also remaining the global leader in the trusted stewardship of technology.  Jim will be a great partner in the next step of this journey.”

End of an era

Virginia Rometty, 62, became Chairman, president and chief executive officer of IBM in 2012. Under her leadership, IBM acquired 65 companies, built out key capabilities in hybrid cloud, security, industry and data, and AI both organically and inorganically, and successfully completed one of the largest technology acquisitions in history with $34 billion Red Hat deal.

“Ginni has provided outstanding leadership for IBM, substantially transforming the company and ushering in a new cloud and cognitive era,” said Michael Eskew, Lead Director of the IBM Board of Directors.  “She has taken bold strategic actions to reposition IBM for the future, shedding businesses and growing new units organically and through acquisition, all while achieving record diversity and employee engagement and setting the industry standard for responsible technology ethics and data stewardship.”

“With the strong foundation now established by Ginni for IBM’s future, the Board is confident that Arvind is the right CEO to lead IBM,” Eskew continued.  “The Board ran a world-class succession process and found in Arvind a leader with the business acumen, operational skills, and technology vision needed to guide IBM in this fast-moving industry.”