ARMONK, N.Y. (

TheStreet

) --

IBM's

(IBM) - Get Report

popular CEO Sam Palmisano plans to step down at year-end. The Dow component said Tuesday he'll be replaced by the company's sales chief, Virginia Rometty.

Big Blue announced the change in a statement released after market close, explaining that Palmisano will remain chairman of the board. The CEO transition is to take place on Jan. 1.

IBM CEO Sam Palmisano will step down next year.

"Ginni Rometty has successfully led several of IBM's most important businesses over the past decade - from the formation of IBM Global Business Services to the build-out of our Growth Markets Unit," said Palmisano, in the statement. "But she is more than a superb operational executive - with every leadership role, she has strengthened our ability to integrate IBM's capabilities for our clients."

"She brings to the role of CEO a unique combination of vision, client focus, unrelenting drive, and passion for IBMers and the company's future," he added. "I know the board agrees with me that Ginni is the ideal CEO to lead IBM into its second century."

Palmisano, who took IBM's reins in 2002,

successfully guided

the tech giant through the economic downturn, and helped architect its push towards

high-margin areas

such as software and services.

IBM shares dipped $2.06, or 1.14%, to $178.3 in extended trading.

--

Written by James Rogers in New York

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