IBM President and former Red Hat boss Jim Whitehurst quits

Krishna: 'Our hybrid cloud and AI strategy is strongly resonating with clients' - no, really, it is


Former president and CEO of Red Hat, Jim Whitehurst, is quitting the biz less than two years after rocking up at Big Blue, the hard-pressed business claimed today.

"Our hybrid cloud and AI strategy is strongly resonating with clients," intoned CEO Arvind Krishna in a blog post. Maybe not so much for Whitehurst, it appears, as the ex-Red Hatter is stepping down with immediate effect, although he will remain on hand as a senior advisor to Krishna and his other generals.

The CEO said Whitehurst had "played a pivotal role in the IBM and Red Hat integration" and was "instrumental in articulating IBM’s strategy" but alas "Jim has decided to step down".

The move comes mere months after Whitehurst was named one of the big winners in the IBM pay award contest, trousering a compensation package worth a handsome $27.2m, including $1.1m in salary and $22.4m in stock awards, with an additional $1.5m in a non-equity incentive plan and $130,562 for all other compensation.

Whitehurst was also to be paid up to $6m in a cash retention payment, and got the first installment in July 2020. The second was due this month and the third in July 2022. The payments were based on criteria including hitting financial targets. The Register has contacted IBM to find out if this retention payment will still be made, and will update if there is a response.

Whitehurst was CEO of Red Hat when IBM chowed down on the Linux business for an eyewatering $34bn in 2018. He'd been with the company for more than 12 years and was succeeded as CEO by Red Hat veteran Paul Cormier in 2020. His tenure as IBM President has been considerably shorter.

We assume that discussions regarding his departure were not conducted over IBM's iffy email system. Presumably messages were exchanged via intern or fax machine.

In other moves confirmed by Krishna today, Bridget van Kralingen, senior veep for IBM Global Markets, is also on the way out and will pause for a year to lead Special Projects before retiring from IBM. Replacing her in Global Markets is Rob Thomas, who ran IBM Asia Pacific.

Former WebSphere GM Tom Rosamilia was named senior veep for cloud and cognitive software, Kelly Chambliss has become senior veep for Americas and Strategic Sales, Global Business Services.

A new face in the shape of former HPE exec Ric Lewis has joined as senior veep of Systems.

However, Whitehurst's departure is the most significant of the deckchair rearranging, particularly with IBM depending so heavily on Red Hat for the hybrid cloud future Krishna is looking forward to.

Then again, Cormier told The Register last year: "We don't participate in IBM's culture. It's that simple," which more than hinted at the potential for clashes between the bureaucratic nature of Big Blue and the comparatively different culture at Red Hat.

Whitehurst's success with Red Hat has yet to be repeated at IBM. The company's fiscal 2020 made for grim reading, with declining revenues even as many of its tech competitors made hay.

At the time of writing, investors were unimpressed with the change. IBM's stock price had declined more than four per cent. ®

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