IBM Redux: Lou Gerstner and the Business Turnaround of the Decade

Doug Garr

ISBN 10: 0887309437 / ISBN 13: 9780887309434
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[ No Hassle 30 Day Returns ][ Ships Daily ] [ Underlining/Highlighting: NONE ] [ Writing: NONE ] [ Edition: Reprint ] Publisher: HarperBusiness Pub Date: 9/1/1999 Binding: Hardcover Pages: 384 Reprint edition. Bookseller Inventory #

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Can one man change the course of business history?

When Lou Gerstner, a high-tech neophyte, took the helm at IBM in 1993, the company was in a death spiral. Big Blue lost $8 billion that year, capping a three-year loss of nearly $16 billion. One of the nation's premiere industrial giants seemed destined to wither away and die in bankruptcy. The world of high technology changed and IBM failed to adapt, drowning in its own bureaucracy and its insular view of the business world.

Six years later, after a miraculous recovery, IBM is vital and thriving once again. The stock has reached its all-time high, the balance sheet is cashrich, and its market capitalization has increased more than fourfold to $169 billion. It is a success story beyond compare.

IBM Redux is the inside story of the greatest turnaround in business history, and the man who made it happen

Here is the first in-depth look at IBM's recovery and the man who is leading it, Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. It is a skillfully told story, as author Doug Garr chronicles Gerstner's rise, his arrival as the first steward from outside the company's ranks, and his implementation of new business and marketing strategies. Drawn from more than 150 interviews and hundreds of pages of documents, Garr paints an enthralling portrait of the improbable transformation of this dying mainframe company into an increasingly nimble information services giant. With unprecedented access to current and former IBM employees, the author provides rare insight into how it happened and what still needs to happen for the company to thrive in the twenty-first century.

From the complete overhaul of IBM's culture and image to the takeover of Lotus and the development of network technology, Garr vividly illustrates Gerstner's operating methods, management philosophy, and, yes, vision. And along the way he reveals who this extraordinary, sometimes difficult, man is, what drives him, and where, in the eyes of his critics, he has missed the mark.

Fast-paced and fascinating, IBM Redux is the first unauthorized, behind-the-scenes look at a remarkable company and its remarkable manager who, after previous careers dispensing cookies and credit cards, is rapidly changing the face of the entire high-tech industry.

Review: Lou Gerstner, the man who flipped IBM's fortunes, has what a former colleague calls "a vertical vision of reality." That is, if things aren't moving upward, he's very unhappy. When he took over at IBM in 1993, they were moving downward at a frightening speed, and what he did to turn the company around will probably be studied in business schools in future generations. Until then, we have IBM Redux, by Doug Carr, a very entertaining and instructive look at Gerstner and the company he revived.

Carr, a former IBM speechwriter, possesses an insider's knowledge about the Gerstner years at IBM: the despair of watching the company sink into the tar pits of ever-deeper red ink; the ruthlessness of the early firings and other cost controls (one woman was downsized--"excessed" is the actual IBM euphemism--when she was eight and a half months pregnant and coming off a stellar performance review; another was given his termination papers while in a coma); the business decisions that led to the turnaround; and finally the elation of seeing the company reinvented as a nimble information-services provider.

This is far from a hagiography of Gerstner, however. Because Carr didn't have access to him, he relies on anecdotes from those who know Gerstner and have worked with him, and the result is a fascinating portrait of the CEO as a young man (one former high school football teammate recalls an errant pass from quarterback Gerstner that led to the teammate's career-ending knee injury); as a man in a hurry (the chapters on Gerstner's years at American Express and RJR Nabisco foreshadow his accomplishments at IBM); and finally as a seasoned businessman who succeeded in overhauling a company that few thought would survive intact. --Lou Schuler

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