Like Father Like Son

Tom Watson, founder of IBM, had a typical father/son relationship with his son, Tom Watson Jnr – i.e they rowed like hell. And there was no more bitter subject of their rows than the issue of succession.

In 1947, when Tom Jnr was 33, Tom Snr had a dilemma. He wanted his son to eventually take over as President of IBM, but he didn’t think Tom Jnr was ready for it.

But Tom Jnr thought he was ready for it, and he didn’t want his father to appoint Charley Kirk, who was doing the heavy lifting running IBM, to be appointed his successor, so forcing Tom Jnr to wait over 20 years for Kirk to retire before he, Tom Jnr, could claim his birthright.

After a major father/son row, Tom Snr sent Kirk and Tom Jnr on a tour of Europe.

At dinner at the Carlton Hotel in Lyons, Kirk vomited and died later that night. He was 43.

The Watsons’ internecine problem was solved.

A short term – obviously buffer – president was appointed later in 1947 from whom Tom Jnr took over as President of IBM in 1952.


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