Sam Palmisano is chairman and CEO of the company that would no longer like to be known as "Big Blue."
A Baltimore native and IBM lifer, Palmisano joined the company as a sales rep straight out of college in 1973 and has been clad in pinstripes ever since. He ascended to his current post in 2003, succeeding the bombastic Lou Gerstner, with whom Palmisano (a so-called nice guy) is often contrasted. A former executive assistant to John Akers—that's two CEOs ago—Palmisano has since been focused on making over IBM's fusty image. He steered the company into services and was the main proponent behind IBM's embrace of Linux. Once known as Big Blue—a name derived a half-century ago from the company's signature blue mainframe computers—Palmisano sold off the money-losing PC division to China's Lenovo Group in 2004. Having concluded that computing is now a commodity business, and that IBM wasn't equipped to battle Dell and offshore hardware manufacturers, Palmisano has focused on assisting companies with outsourced services like technology, research and development, and customer relationship management.
Palmisano took home $20.9 million in cash and stock in 2007.
Palmisano is on the board of ExxonMobil and is a former board member of the media conglomerate Gannett.
Palmisano and his wife Gaier (she goes by "Missy") have been together since college. They have three sons and one daughter and live in Southport, Conn., not far from GE chairman Jeff Immelt. Palmisano also owns a home in Kennebunkport that he purchased from the first President Bush. Palmisano and Bush are frequent golfing buddies.
Palmisano once played back-up saxophone for the Temptations (he earned $1,000 for the gig) and was offered a tryout with the Oakland Raiders as an offensive lineman.