Virginia M. Rometty, the new CEO of IBM, will attend this week's Masters tournament, but it's not clear if she will be wearing the green jacket of an Augusta National member, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
Ms. Rometty, 54, who took IBM's helm at the beginning of this year, hasn't commented publicly on the matter. She plays golf, though not frequently, IBM says. She plans to entertain clients at the tournament.Rometty's elevation to the top position at IBM earlier this year brought increased attention to Augusta National's all-male membership policy. Traditionally, the CEO of IBM -- a key sponsor of the Masters tournament -- has been invited to join the club. However, the Journal notes that the invitation extended to the IBM CEOs had not been automatic, and the company has been concerned in the past about Augusta's men-only membership policy.
The last four CEOs of IBM have been offered membership, which allows a person to don the club's famous green blazer.
Still, the chief executives often have had to wait before securing membership, said a person familiar with the matter.
When Samuel J. Palmisano became CEO of IBM in March 2002, he wasn't immediately made a member, said the person. After he took the top job, there was considerable discussion among Mr. Palmisano and his associates over whether he should join a club that excludes women, said the person. He ultimately decided to apply and he was accepted as a member.
Former IBM CEO Louis V. Gerstner used to take Mr. Palmisano and other top managers down to the event to play the course and meet clients, said a person familiar with the matter. In a contentious press conference on Wednesday, club chairman Billy Payne repeatedly refused to comment on whether Rometty is or will be invited to be a member.
Q. Is it possible to elaborate further on why Membership for Mrs. Rometty wouldn't be considered, just to give us a little more spiel on that. CHAIRMAN PAYNE: I guess two reasons: One, we don't talk about our private deliberations. No. 2, we especially don't talk about it when a named candidate is a part of the question.