RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Technology columnist Timothy Prickett Morgan is harshly critical of Jim Whitehurst’s departure as president of IBM, writing: “Someone at the company forgot what being named president of the IBM Company means. Or no longer cared.”
Morgan, the co-editor of tech site The Next Platform and who lives in Boone according to his LinkedIn site, declares that Whitehurst’s departure means what the longtime CEO of Raleigh-based Red Hat would have done to impact IBM is something “we will probably never see.”
While not being harshly critical of Chair and CEO Arvind Krishna – who prevailed over Whitehurst when IBM’s board selected a CEO to replace the retired Ginni Rometty last year – Morgan makes clear that losing Whitehurst hurts Big Blue.
“Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat. If someone has been named president of International Business Machines Corporation, it means they are the heir apparent and future chief executive officer of what used to be the world’s largest IT supplier and, with prior presidents, actually was the world’s largest IT supplier. Which is why the announcement of the departure of Jim Whitehurst from IBM on the Friday before the Independence Day holiday in America started was such a surprise,” he wrote in a post published Thursday.
“Someone at the company forgot what being named president of the IBM Company means. Or no longer cared.”
Whitehurst said in an interview this week that he wants to be a CEO again, noting his age (54) and Krishna (59). But as Morgan notes “60” has been standard retirement age for IBM’s chief. (Rometty retired at 62.) He remains an advisor to Krishna.
Morgan cites IBM’s struggles over the past 30 years – from layoffs to reorganizations to leadership changes – as reasons why Whitehurst had the potential to build a different IBM.
“The upshot is we will never know what that future IBM, one that brought the sensibilities Whitehurst has developed in his long career from outside of Big Blue, could have been,” he writes.
He also says precedent was broken in Whitehurst’s departure as president.
“The precedent for presidents is clear here at IBM, and it is important to point this out. Whatever happened with Whitehurst violates that precedent, which means it had to be pretty significant,” he says. “While it is true, as has been reported, that Whitehurst, who is 54, wants to be CEO at a company before he retires, the CEO job he undoubtedly thought he would have – and that any IBMer and IBM watcher already thought he had – was the future CEO at IBM.”