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IBM has named Virginia Rometty – known within Big Blue as “Ginni” – as its next chief executive officer. She will take over on January 1 from Sam Palmisano who is retiring as CEO at 60 – still the required maximum age for IBM CEOs.

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That should give Ginni – now 54 – six years at the helm. She has worked for 30 years at IBM, most recently in charge of part of IBM’s services business.

She is the first woman to head Big Blue. Her vault to power sees two of the biggest IT companies now run by females: Rometty at IBM and Meg Whitman at Hewlett-Packard.

Rometty has been handpicked and guided by Palmisano. She first gained fame within IBM by leading the 2002 integration of PriceWaterhouseCoopers’s consulting arm, which turned IBM from being a pure technology provider into a seller of top strategic advice.

“She is thoughtful, she is hard-driving,” said Paul Horn, former head of IBM Research. “She has got a lot of the right characteristics. People trust her.”

 

Palmisano – who 10 years ago beat Australian Doug Elix for the top job – is not completely stepping down from power.

He will remain chairman of the group. He is remembered for successfully changing IBM from a maker of PCs and mainframes into a mainly software and services business.

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