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Whitehurst out as IBM president amid executive changes

Top executives leading IBM have moved, including IBM president Jim Whitehurst, and the company has added a new face to its systems business, recruited from HPE.

Jim Whitehurst, the former Red Hat CEO who has served as IBM's president for the past three years, is stepping down from his post. He will continue to serve as senior advisor to CEO Arvind Krishna along with the rest of IBM's senior executive team.

In a statement released by the company, Krishna said in his time as president, Whitehurst had been "instrumental in articulating IBM's strategy, but also in ensuring that IBM and Red Hat work well together and that our platforms and innovations provide value to our customers."

Jim WhitehurstJim Whitehurst

A reason for his departure from the role was not released. IBM has not named a replacement for Whitehurst. IBM's stock fell 4.7% in response to the news.

"It's definitely a loss for the company," said Judith Hurwitz, president and CEO of Hurwitz & Associates, LLC, consultants and market researchers in Cambridge, Mass. "He has a great reputation as being a charismatic leader. He did a great job taking Red Hat to the next level. It's not a total surprise though; he is a very wealthy man at this point, but he could also be a bit restless."

If IBM's CEO was within a year or so of retiring, Whitehurst might have stayed on, Hurwitz added, but that is a "transition that is not going to happen for quite a while," she said.

Whitehurst's decision to leave could also be tied to stock and other financial incentives he could not receive until the end of a three-year vesting period.

"As a senior executive in a corporation like IBM, he is restricted from selling stock he may have acquired in the acquisition [of Red Hat by IBM]," one consultant speculated. "When you hit three years -- it's never five or 10 -- you can hit a financial home run," he said.

In addition, Bridget van Kralingen has stepped down as senior vice president of global markets, although she too will stay on as senior vice president of special projects for the next year, at which time she plans to retire. Replacing her as senior vice president of global markets is Rob Thomas, who has served in various capacities across multiple IBM divisions involving AI, hardware, software and services.

In another move, Tom Rosamilia will become senior vice president of IBM's cloud and cognitive software business. A longtime IBMer, Rosamilia has headed the company's systems business and held a number of leadership positions in the IBM systems business and served as the general manager of Websphere and database offerings.

Also, IBM has recruited HPE's Ric Lewis as senior vice president of systems. Lewis led HPE's hybrid IT business, including hardware systems, VLSI software and cloud. In a statement, Krishna said "our systems business is an important source of differentiation for our clients and our hybrid cloud platform. As a gifted technologist and business leader, he can use his rich experience and expertise to take Systems to new heights."

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