Listen to this article
The American chief executive officer of Lenovo, the computer maker whose takeover of IBM’s PC business this year marked it as one of the first Chinese companies with global ambitions, was replaced on Tuesday, less than eight months after the ground-breaking deal was completed.
Steve Ward, a veteran IBM executive who had become the first leader of the ambitious Chinese-US corporate experiment, left in what both he and the company characterised as a move to bring an executive with skills more suited to the top job at the world’s third largest PC maker. He was replaced by Bill Amelio, head of Dell’s Asia-Pacific operations and himself a former IBM executive.
Yang Yuanqing, the Lenovo chairman who gave up the CEO title to Mr Ward to help ease through the deal with IBM, denied the move was the result of a culture clash.
“We chose another American to be our CEO. It’s not a Chinese or American issue,” he said. “Steve and Lenovo’s board agreed that now is the right time for this transition.” He added that the first phase of the integration of the Lenovo and IBM operations had been completed and the company wanted to advance more quickly to the next stage of its expansion.
Mr Ward said Mr Amelio’s experience made him better suited to overseeing the next phase of Lenovo’s growth, which would rely more on global operations. “He is stronger in supply chain than I am. My strengths are in strategy and in building this thing.”
The relationship between Mr Yang, 41, and Mr Ward has been closely watched given Mr Yang’s background as a hands-on executive who masterminded Lenovo’s rise. His style has been at odds with the buttoned-down IBM approach Mr Ward represented.
Lenovo’s decision to appease the former IBMers by putting its corporate headquarters in New York also prompted questions about how easy the new organisation would be to manage. On Tuesday, Mr Yang said Lenovo’s headquarters would remain in New York, though Mr Amelio said he would keep his home in Singapore and take a decision after the end of the school year on where to base his family.
Mr Amelio’s 18-year career at IBM included general manager of its personal computer PC business. Mr Ward said he had set out to bring talent into Lenovo at a senior level and had recommended his former colleague to several Lenovo executives as a possible new CEO for the company.
Mr Amelio’s time with Dell, the world’s biggest PC maker, had also given him the experience of working in the emerging markets, which will account for half of all the growth in the global PC industry in the coming years, said Mr Yang.