In Armonk, IBM Once Feared Communists, Now Welcomes Them

That communist China's Lenovo Group is moving its headquarters to Armonk, where it will be run by a longtime IBM executive, demonstrates just how much the world has changed.

W. David Gardner, Contributor

December 29, 2004

1 Min Read

When IBM moved its headquarters from New York City to suburban Armonk in the mid-1960s, it did so largely to avoid the communist bombs that many feared would fall on the metropolis.

That communist China's Lenovo Group--which recently bought a majority stake in IBM's PC operation--is moving its headquarters to Armonk where it will be run by a longtime IBM executive, demonstrates just how much the world has changed.

Lenovo's new chief executive Stephen M. Ward, Jr., will direct the Chinese firm from Armonk. Ward was most recently senior vice president and general manager of IBM's Personal Systems Group.

IBM's chairman Thomas J. Watson Jr. dedicated the Armonk headquarters in 1964. At the time, bomb-shelter hysteria was sweeping the nation. Earlier, President John Kennedy and New York's Governor Nelson Rockefeller, a perennial Presidential candidate, were in a one-upmanship battle to see who could do more to encourage the construction of bomb shelters.

IBM had been offering interest-free loans to its employees to build fallout shelters in their homes. Watson set a good example by building one in his Greenwich, Conn., home, and when new IBM facilities were built, they usually came with bomb shelters.

At the time, the fear stemmed from the Communist Soviet Union and its nuclear weapons arsenal--China hadn't yet exploded an atomic bomb.

Levono began as a state-owned company, and still is partly owned by the government of China. But the company today is largely what could be termed a capitalist operation with shares listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange.

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