More Changes: IBM Vice Chairman Jack Kuehler to Retire
New York, N.Y. -- IBM took another step into the New Blue era Wednesday,
announcing that vice chairman Jack D. Kuehler is retiring.
Kuehler, 60, was a key associate of former chairman John F. Akers, who was
forced to resign earlier this year as shareholder frustration mounted over
IBM's worsening performance.
Newly appointed IBM chairman Louis V. Gerstner does not intend to name a
successor to Kuehler, spokesman Jon C. Iwata said, adding that Gerstner "does
not plan to make any significant organizational announcements in the short
"He wants to take time to understand IBM, its people and its structure,"
But Wall Street was speculating Wednesday about a possible contender for
IBM's chief financial officer. After Eastman Kodak Co. CFO Christopher J.
Steffen announced his resignation Wednesday, investors bid IBM shares up
$1.12 1/2 a share to $49.50 on the New York Stock Exchange amid rumors that
he was headed for IBM.
IBM spokesman Roger Bolton told the Associated Press the company had no
comment on the rumors.
Word of Kuehler's retirement came two days after shareholders at IBM's
annual meeting vented anger at top executives for reacting too slowly to
changes in the computer industry the 1980s. (Select 1003 for more.)
It was widely anticipated that Kuehler would leave, especially after the
appointment a month ago of Gerstner as Akers' replacement. Gerstner, who had
been RJR Nabisco chairman, was the first outsider to head the company.
"I think that Kuehler had pretty well signaled when he stepped down as
president that his days were numbered, so this was not a surprise," Mark
Stahlman, president of New Media Associates in New York, told AP.
Kuehler stepped down as president when Akers announced he was planning to
leave the company.
"His fingerprints are on a lot of the questionable decisions over the last
five years," Stahlman said.
Among them, Stahlman said, was the breakup of IBM's workstation operations
into smaller divisions and placing too much emphasis on the business return
of research and development.
"He had a hand in a lot of the decisions that are in the process of being
reversed. This was an entirely reasonable part of the company's overall
restructuring," Stahlman told AP.
But some analysts praised Kuehler for his knack for innovation and
strategy. "He's been the technology conscience of the IBM company," Sam
Albert, a management consultant in Scarsdale, N.Y., told AP.
"He often announced products to the IBM sales force and demonstrated his
marketing savvy," said Albert, adding that Kuehler forged recent technical
alliances with computer makers such as Apple, Motorola, Siemens and Toshiba.
Gerstner said in a statement, "Jack agreed last year to stay beyond his
planned retirement date, and I'm pleased that he will stay through August to
continue his work on key alliances and to advise me on technology issues."
In the statement, IBM credited Kuehler with:
* Launching the team responsible for bringing to market the "highly
successful" RS/6000 workstation and server family;
* Heading the General Technology Division that developed and produced IBM's
advanced memory, logic, and circuit packaging technologies;
* Running IBM's Systems Products Division when it introduced the IBM 4300
in 1979; and
* Leading development of multiprocessors and terminals as director of the
company's Raleigh, N.C., communications laboratory from 1967 to 1970.
Kuehler joined IBM in 1958 as an engineer.
At the annual meeting earlier this week, Gerstner did not offer a detailed
plan for overhauling IBM or explain how he'll revive a stock that's
languishing at one-fourth its pre-1987 market crash peak of $175 a share.