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Gerstner's long and lucrative goodbye

Saver of IBM (shurely saviour? - Ed)

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Some years back The Register heard IBM saviour Lou Gerstner, then the new boy, explain some of his big visions for the industry. It having been deemed, it appeared, that his previous claim not to have a vision at all needed just a tad of correction. As it happens these visions largely haven't come true at all yet; or they have come true, but in unfortunate ways. Lou however, now headed into a happy and prosperous semi-retirement, has become substantially richer than Croesus.

One of his bright ideas, which spawned a ludicrous Register in-joke we ought to get around to killing off, was that people's shoes and/or belts would talk to items of other people's apparel. The limitations of the technology of the time prompted us to muse on people bumping their belt buckles together lasciviously, in the same way as they swing their backsides against security doors so the smartcard will work. But he was right there, Bluetooth can cope with this withotu you getting arrested, although Bluetooth itself isn't quite right here yet.

Bandwidth was free, he told us, which it most certainly wasn't for all of the subsequent years. It is kind of free now, in that you could (well maybe not you, but Lou could) probably pick up one of the numerous semi-bust or bust providers for chump change. The Register confidently expects to be able to pick up something of the heft of Worldcom out of the change from a round of beers RSN. This however doesn't make it free for the users, as many of you may have noticed. Nor, oddly, does it make the busted providers drop their prices to levels cash-strapped dotcoms can afford.

The other thing we remember is him saying, what goes around comes around. This was not a vision, but how true, how very true. Having saved IBM by not having a vision at all, and turning it back into a very boring company, much has been going around and coming around the man himself, and Lou is now a very, very rich man. Last year's salary and bonus netted him $12.6 million, and he cashed stock options worth $115 million. He probably has twice that many left to cash, and although we've long since lost count of how many he's received, and how much he's cashed, he was estimated as being worth $500 million in stock three years ago, and surely won't have got poorer in the interim.

Although Sam Palmisano has replaced him as CEO, he remains chairman for another year, and then has a ten year consultancy contract which will include use of aircraft, cars, office space and apartment. The price of cabs and accommodation in Armonk must surely be criminal. ®

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