Harriet Green lands job at IBM

The former Thomas Cook boss has taken a demotion in her new role.

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 15 Sep 2015

Harriet Green has finally landed herself a new job. After being unceremoniously canned as chief executive of Thomas Cook last November, the turnaround specialist has found herself a role as a vice president at ageing IT giant IBM.

Green will head up two new business units that will ‘apply… Big Data, advanced analytics and cognitive computing’ to the ‘Internet of Things’ (IOT) and education.

‘Harriet brings to IBM a strong, proven track record as a transformative leader,’ John E. Kelly, IBM’s senior vice president for ‘solutions portfolio and research’ (and presumably Green’s new boss), said in a statement to the New York Stock Exchange yesterday.

‘Throughout her career… she has consistently shown a deep understanding of the needs of her customers and clients, and how to help them achieve their goals and aspirations.’ (Not sure the parents of two children killed on a Thomas Cook holiday in Corfu in 2006 would agree with that, but there we go.)

Green’s new role, which marks another change of industry for her, won’t be insubstantial. IBM didn’t say anything about the education division, other than it will launch later this year. But the company announced plans in March to invest $3bn (£1.9bn) in IOT technology and said the team lead by her will soon number more than 2,000.

IBM is also a much bigger beast than Thomas Cook, with a market capitalisation of $142.7bn compared to £1.8bn. But it’s sales have fallen for 13 quarters in a row and there’s no doubt the once mighty Big Blue has slowed as it’s aged.

Moreover, it’s still a demotion for Green. She was CEO of electronics components retailer Premier Farnell for six years until taking over at Thomas Cook in 2012. There she was feted for bringing the travel company back from the brink of bankruptcy, before falling out with the board and being given the boot. Leading a division, however large, is a different proposition from having the buck stop with you as the boss.

Maybe Green will thrive in the cut and thrust of large company politics. No doubt, though, she’ll enjoy working across the pond, relatively free of a press that doesn’t raise eyebrows at a penchant for Dior, posing with your personal trainer and only four hours sleep a night.

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