Buffett's IBM Buy Made Easier by Solid CEOs

ARMONK, N.Y. ( TheStreet) -- Warren Buffett's decision to grab $10.7 billion worth of IBM ( IBM) was made easier by Big Blue's history of strong leadership, according to the Berkshire Hathaway ( BRK.B) CEO.

The tech bellwether recently announced that its CEO Sam Palmisano will step down at year-end, to be replaced by sales chief Virginia Rometty. Palmisano, who took IBM's reins from the popular Lou Gerstner in 2002, successfully guided the tech giant through the economic downturn, and helped architect its push toward high-margin areas areas such as software and services.

IBM CEO Sam Palmisano will step down next year.

Buffett cited Palmisano and Gerstner's efforts during an interview with CNBC on Monday, adding that he's confident of Rometty's ability to continue their legacy.

"They are batting 1.000 with the last two CEOs they have come up with," he explained. "I don't know Rometty, but I have heard things that she has said -- I don't see her appointment as anything other than a positive."

Like Palmisano before her, Rometty is another IBM veteran with an encyclopedic knowledge of the tech giant's workings.

Rometty, who joined IBM in 1981 as a systems engineer, has racked up an impressive array experience during her three decades with the company. Prior to becoming senior vice president for IBM Sales, Marketing and Strategy, she was responsible for IBM Global Business Services, overseeing the integration of PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting. Rometty was also responsible for building out the firm's services facilities in India and China.

The Northwestern University grad was also general manager of IBM's Global Insurance and Financial Services Sector earlier in her career.

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Rometty's diverse experience may provide hints as to her CEO strategy, according to Chris Ambrose, research vice president at analyst firm Gartner. "I would expect to see a continued drive for synergies and increased communication between different segments," he told TheStreet. "I would also expect to see a continued focus across emerging markets."

The analyst also cites Rometty's background in services as key in her appointment as CEO. "I would expect to continue to see a strong push in services," he explained. "When people talked about who might be the next CEO, her name consistently bubbled to the top."

Observers, however, are keen to see how the new CEO's leadership style will compare to that of her predecessor. Palmisano kept a relatively low profile during his time at the helm, preferring to focus on IBM's internal operations and its lucrative push into software and services.

People who know Rometty paint a picture of a polished performer more than capable of continuing IBM's success.

"She has great stage presence and is highly engaging with customers," explained Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Arbuckle professor at Harvard Business School, who has known the incoming CEO for about 12 years. "Ginni is a great champion of IBM's culture and values while also delivering superior financial performance."

"Ginni is very bright and analytical, good with people, results oriented and expects excellence from them," added Nelson Fraiman, a professor at Columbia University's Graduate School of Business, who works with Rometty on one of the School's awards programs. "I have known her for the last 10 years or so -- she is a pleasure to deal with. "

IBM shares closed down 3 cents, or 0.02%, at $187.35 on Monday.

-- Written by James Rogers in New York

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