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Gerstner cheered in upcoming IBM book

The book, with the working title IBM Redux, attributes Big Blue's turnaround to the leadership of Big Lou.

The continuing saga of Big Blue is due for an update.

Author Doug Garr, a journalist and former IBM speechwriter, is writing a book that will explore IBM's transformation from a money-losing mainframe provider in the early 1990's to a profitable company honing in on the software and services market under the leadership of Lou Gerstner.

HarperCollins has paid journalist and former IBM speechwriter Garr a "low six-figure" advance for an account of the company's dramatic turnaround under chief executive Lou Gerstner. The book's working title is IBM Redux: Inside Lou Gerstner's Dramatic Rescue of Big Blue.

Garr attributes the transformation of IBM in part to Gerstner's experience in the services business, particularly his tenure at American Express, where he headed the travel-related services group before becoming president of the company.

"Gerstner restored a lot of luster to IBM," Garr said, noting that the company lost $8 billion the year Gerstner took the helm. "This is the story of a turnaround."

Gerstner received his share of bad press when he first arrived at IBM. In addition to taking heat for finishing up a painful downsizing operation begun by his predecessor John Akers, Gerstner faced criticism for his non-technological background.

"He was ridiculed in Silicon Valley," Garr noted. "People thought they were going to eat this guy for lunch."

Garr's book, due in the fall, joins a growing library of books on IBM. Recent examples include Broken Promises: An Unconventional View of What Went Wrong at IBM by Daniel Quinn Mills and G. Bruce Friesen, which came out in 1996, and 1993's Big Blues: The Unmaking of IBM, by Paul Carroll.

The purchase of IBM Redux also follows a publishing industry trend in books on the computer technology industry. (See related coverage.)