IBM chief Arvind Krishna cemented his position as apparent heir to leave

The executive widely seen as the apparent heir at IBM resigned in a major management shock, when the American computer maker’s board threw its support behind current executive director Arvind Krishna to complete a review attempt. .

Jim Whitehurst, the former chief executive of Red Hat, had been puts in pole position to take first place since IBM agreed to pay $ 37 billion to the open source software company in 2017. He was later named president of IBM, a title the company usually reserves for its next CEO.

News of his departure swept 4 percent from IBM’s stock price on Friday. However, Krishna, who had been seen by many on Wall Street as a transitional chief executive, portrayed the move as a doubling down on IBM’s current path under his leadership.

“It did wonders for us, but it wasn’t going to be here forever,” he said of Whitehurst. Speaking in an interview with the Financial Times, he added: “Acquired CEOs normally last a year or two.”

The IBM chief suggested that Whitehurst had been on the run to succeed him, but that all hopes of recovery in the short term had been dashed as the company’s board helped him pass the next stage in IBM’s review.

“This is a very viable candidate. But I can’t speculate on what was a time for him, ”he said of Whitehurst.

The former Red Hat boss played a “critical role” in IBM’s cloud strategy after the acquisition, said Moshe Katri, Wedbush analyst. “You expect leadership to attack and it’s not happening. It’s a contrast.”

Krishna pointed to the fact that the Council had appointed him president and chief executive earlier this year as a sign of its support for him. The broader bag of top management announced Friday was “to build a leadership team to take IBM where I led it,” he said.

Krishna was the architect of the acquisition of Red Hat, a betting agreement designed to give IBM a stronger position in the cloud computing business against giants such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft.

A former head of research, Krishna defended the acquisition of Red Hat under former CEO Ginni Rometty, before retaking the top spot himself last April. The succession was welcomed on Wall Street as a sign that IBM was focusing more on core technology, although it was widely seen as a stand-in at the top until the board was ready to elevate Whitehurst, who had spent 12 years running Red Hat.

IBM faces a rare recruitment of seniors from outside the company, Friday announcing the appointment of former Hewlett Packard Enterprise executive Ric Lewis as head of IBM’s systems division, including its mainframe operations.

IBM executives who are growing as part of the replacement include Rob Thomas, head of cloud operations and data platform, who assumes the company’s first sales and marketing leadership. Tom Rosamilia, first head of systems, has been named to manage the company’s cloud and cognitive systems division, which plays a central role in the effort to regain a position for IBM in artificial intelligence and cloud computing.

The management change announced Friday was designed to make the company “much more focused on execution and much more technologically focused,” Krishna said.

He added that Whitehurst had agreed to continue as a counselor and was not leaving to take a job at another company. “It’s very funny.” He is not going anywhere now, ”Krishna said.

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