John Akers, who led IBM during painful PC transition, dies

John Akers, who served as IBM’s sixth CEO from 1985 through 1994, passed away Friday, in Boston, of a stroke. He was 79. Akers led the company during troubled times, as it felt its way into the nascent PC era while trying to protect its profitable mainframe turf.

Akers helped prep the company for a new age of reliance on service and software, Harvard Business School professor David Yoffie told the New York Times.

Former IBM CEO and Chairman John F. Akers.

Former IBM CEO and Chairman John F. Akers

But, as Yoffie continued: “His background and mentality made it impossible for him to do what his successor, Lou Gerstner, an outsider, did 18 months later … He was going way too slowly.”

Louis Gerstner took the reins at [company]IBM[/company] upon Akers’ retirement. Akers joined IBM as a sales trainee in 1960, after a stint as a Navy pilot. He become president of the company’s Data Processing Division in 1974.He was promoted to VP two years later, and to SVP in 1982. He was named president in 1983, CEO in 1985 and chairman in 1986. He retired in 1993.