Stephen Ward, the IBM PC executive who became the CEO of Lenovo last year, has stepped down and will be replaced by William Amelio, one of Dell's senior executives for Asia.
The change could bring some clouds over a merger that, so far, has gone generally better than expected. Some analysts felt cultural issues, branding and marketing differences would make it difficult for China's Lenovo to absorb IBM. Surprisingly, Lenovo has only lost a little combined market share in the transition.
Ward helped engineer the sale of IBM's PC unit to Lenovo in 2004. He will become a consultant and assist in the transition.
Although some believed that Ward would step down at some point, his retirement comes much quicker than anticipated, said Stephen Baker of NPD Techworld. Customers have viewed Ward as a key management figure in the new company.
"It is disappointing to see him leave at this point," Baker said.
"There is a lot of integration work left to do. This will be a real tough sell for some people."
The merger between Lenovo and IBM was announced last December and became complete in May. Last year, the companies said the first phase of the transition to a common brand would last 18 months.
"With our integration of IBM's PC Division on track and our organizational integration complete, we are accelerating our planning for our next phase of growth," Yang Yuanqing, Lenovo's chairman, said in a prepared statement. "Steve and Lenovo's board agreed that now is the right time for this transition."
"Bill Amelio's combined experience--in our industry, in emerging and mature markets, in senior operational roles and with IBM--gives him the perfect profile to lead Lenovo from the important stability we have achieved in the first phase of our integration, to the profitable growth and efficiency improvement to which we are committed in our next phase," Yuanqing added.
Amelio served as president of Dell's operations in Japan and the Asia Pacific region. Dell has grown rapidly in the region over the last five years.
A Lenovo representative stated that Ward was not asked to resign and was not fired. "We did the integration and organization. Now we want to figure out how to grow the business, so the time for the transition was right," she said.