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Ex-IBM CEO John Akers dies at 79

An era disrupted by the advent of the PC

IBM Logo 2014

Obituary Former IBM CEO John Akers has died in Boston aged 79.

Big Blue announced Akers' passing here, due to a stroke according to Bloomberg.

After a stint as a US Navy pilot, the IBM obit states, Akers joined the company in 1960. His 33-year stint with IBM culminated in his appointment as its sixth CEO in 1985, following three years as president.

The top job became something of a poisoned chalice for Akers: the IBM PC project was green-lit during his tenure, and the industry spawned by this computer would cannibalize Big Blue's mainframe revenue, which was already under attack from minicomputers.

His career was founded on the success of the iconic System/360 and System/370 iron, but eventually fell victim to one of the first big disruptions the industry experienced.

He was eventually replaced by Lou Gerstner (as Bloomberg notes, the first CEO to be appointed from outside IBM).

To Gerstner fell the task of reversing the losses IBM was racking up – US$7.8 billion over two years – by embarking on a top-down restructure to shave US$7 billion in costs.

According to retired IBM executive Nicholas Donofrio, Akers took a strong interest in nursing the behind-schedule RS6000 Unix workstation project through to fruition in the late 1980s: “he asked what additional resources I needed and agreed to meet with me monthly to ensure we made the new schedule”. ®

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