Preparing for the Worst: Tech CEOs' Successors

Page 2 of 4

That team includes Cook and Ive, whom the Times of London speculated could be Jobs's heir, as did Fortune.

There's also Bertrand Serlet, who heads OS development, and Phil Schiller, the marketing head. But if any of them is on tap to replace Jobs, Apple is, as usual, playing it close to its vest. The company declined to comment on this story.

Heirs apparent?

Most well-run companies have adopted a strategy that IBM is best known for using, moving its up-and-coming executives around across as many divisions as possible to give them the broadest exposure to the firm's array of products.

That's what's at work in most of the firms on this list, as well.

However, many don't talk publicly about their line of succession. If one person is identified as an heir too early, those not in line for the top spot may leave.

"Folks who tend to be in high-level executive positions are extremely ambitious," King said. "If they've got their eye on a particular chair and it doesn't look like it will be open in the near future, it's not unlikely for them to look elsewhere."


IBM (NYSE: IBM) set the standard for preparing executives for higher positions by moving them around the company so frequently. It's because of this broad exposure to different areas of the business that IBM is frequently poached for executive talent. CA (NYSE: CA) even jokingly refers to itself as "IBM East."

Sam Palmisano
Sam Palmisano
Source: IBM
As a result, there is a vast talent pool of executives who could replace Sam Palmisano. According to tradition, Palmisano is approaching the end of his career -- IBM executives tend to retire in their early 60s.

So if Palmisano does plan to exit in the next five years, his heir already has to be on the internal radar. IBM spokespeople declined to say who that might be, however.

Ovum Vice President Tom Kucharvy felt Robert LeBlanc, the general manager of IBM's global consulting services and head of its Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) initiatives, has a good chance. Previously, LeBlanc headed up the company's Tivoli division.

"He's being put in all the right spots," Kucharvy said. "He's been in the two biggest software groups and now a really important set of initiatives and in charge of IBM's whole SOA strategy. The area he misses is systems."

As it turns out, IBM Systems head Bill Zeitler announced his own retirement last month. But Bajarin thinks the top spot could go to Steven Mills, the head of IBM's software division.

"He's sharp. He knows the entire strategy, cross-company, and he's risen through the ranks," Bajarin said. "He would be one of the guys on my list because at that executive level, he understands the entire company."


Across the country at Intel (NASDAQ: INTC), the line of succession may see almost clear -- but not so fast. There are four executive vice presidents, a rank from where the CEO Paul Otellini's likely successor will come.

Paul Otellini
Paul Otellini
Source: Intel
Sean Maloney, executive vice president and general manager of sales and marketing, is Brookwood's choice.

At 51, Maloney is seven years younger than CEO Paul Otellini, who faces a mandatory retirement age of 65. However, Maloney isn't the only executive with CEO potential.

"Behind them, you've got [Pat] Gelsinger, who has gained some credibility since switching to head of the digital enterprise group, and David Perlmutter, who heads up mobility," Brookwood said. "The bottom line is Intel probably has the deepest bench."

But John Spooner, senior analyst with Technology Business Review, thinks Andy Bryant, Intel's longtime CFO, might make for a good leader.

"Bryant really understands the inner workings of the company," he said. "Maloney is more similar to Otellini and Intel does need a sales guy, but at the end of the day, Intel is a manufacturing company and Andy Bryant really understands manufacturing."

Spooner added that Perlmutter also has upward potential -- and his big test is this year, with the launch of Nehalem.

Ultimately, the launch is Perlmutter's responsibility. If Nehalem ships on time and is everything Intel promised, he can emerge a rock star.

But if Nehalem pulls a Barcelona, Perlmutter and AMD's Hector Ruiz could wind up drinking buddies at a Silicon Valley watering hole, drowning their missed deadlines sorrows.

Hector Ruiz
Hector Ruiz
Source: AMD

On that note, when it came to who would succeed Hector Ruiz at AMD (NYSE: AMD), it was pretty unanimous: "Dirk Meyer is the man," Brookwood said.

"Meyer is a lock," added Spooner.

Even AMD acknowledged that Meyer, the company's COO, is indeed the CEO-in-waiting. When Meyer ascends to the top spot, it's felt that Randy Allen, longtime vice president and head of the server initiative, would move into Meyer's current position.

Page 3: HP and Dell

(Page 2 of 4)

Business News Solutions

Comment and Contribute

    (Maximum characters: 1200). You have 1200 characters left.



    Channel News| Contact Andy Patrizio | Back to top

    Click the Join button below to sign up to our newsletter!