RALEIGH – IBM announced the departure of president Jim Whitehurst last week, with scant details about the decision or the move.
Whitehurst, who led Red Hat from December 2007 through the acquisition of the open-source software company in a $34 billion deal with IBM, told Barron’s that he wants another chance to be CEO, but it wasn’t going to happen at IBM.
In the Barron’s interview, Whitehurst noted that he, 54, and Krishna, 59, are too close in age for that to work out, adding that he knew his tenure at IBM was likely to be short when the board of directors chose Krishna, a 30-year IBM veteran, as CEO.
Whitehurst told Barron’s that he knew that his time at IBM was likely to be short when the board chose the 30-year IBM veteran Krishna as CEO. Whitehurst had been widely considered a candidate to succeed Rometty, and WRAL TechWire’s The Skinny blog had Whitehurst as a top candidate for the role of CEO at the time of the acquisition of Red Hat by IBM.
“I feel really good about the Red Hat integration,” Whitehurst said. “I spent 12 years building Red Hat. It’s my baby.”
WRAL TechWire reported on a profile of Whitehurst and his career, earlier this year, chronicling how Whitehurst came to join Red Hat.
During Whitehurst’s tenure at Delta Airlines, Whitehurst would download ticket data—every 10th ticket is sampled and sent to the U.S. Government—but ran into issued attempting to process it, because systems had a four-gigabyte file size.
Whitehurst first began using Linux to analyze the data, and used Fedora, which was a free version of Red Hat Linux.
He was recruited to join Red Hat, and joined in 2007 as CEO, right at the time the company was constructing a new business model, during which the company saw itself as a transformer of how technology is built and consumed.
“I think I speak for most Red Hat engineers when I say this is working with IBM to look way far off into the future and execute against it,” said Whitehurst in the profile that originally appeared in C-Suite Quarterly. “We were taking technologies and iterating on them. That iterative innovation that we talked about in open source and modularity is extraordinary to drive the pace of innovation.”
Whitehurst will stay a few months at IBM as a “senior advisor,” according to last week’s announcement from Krishna.
“Jim Whitehurst has played a pivotal role in the IBM and Red Hat integration. In the almost three years since the acquisition was announced, 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. Jim has decided to step down as IBM President,” Krishna wrote.
“However I am pleased he will continue working as Senior Advisor to me and the rest of the Executive Leadership Team as we continue to evolve our business,” he added.