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IBM's board is handing full leadership of the company to CEO and president Samuel Palmisano, saying Tuesday that he will succeed Lou Gerstner as chairman. Gerstner, who relinquished his CEO title to Palmisano after retiring from that job in March, has said he would give up the chairman job and his membership on the board by year's end.
Palmisano, 51, joined IBM as a sales rep in 1973 and was appointed president and chief operating officer in 2000. Before that, he oversaw IBM's server and storage lines and helped build its services business. Among Palmisano's recent accomplishments as CEO are the acquisitions of PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting and several software companies. He's also overseen the pending sale of IBM's hard-drive business, a major realignment of its microelectronics units, and the outsourcing of desktop manufacturing, according to the company.
The exit of Gerstner, 60, wraps up one of the greatest leadership stories of modern business. Gerstner left RJR Nabisco Inc. in 1993 to accept the CEO job at IBM, and he's largely credited with reversing the company's downward slide, implementing a strategy that helped it regain its status as one of the computing industry's most profitable and powerful players.