ARMONK, N.Y. -- International Business Machines Corp. will sell its headquarters and shed the buttoned-up corporate image by relaxing its employee dress code, Chairman Louis Gerstner announced yesterday.
IBM will replace the building that's been its home for 30 years with a new, more-advanced facility to be built on another part of the company's 450-acre site in Westchester County, a suburb of New York City. The company also will drop its famed, but unofficial, dress code of blue suit and starched white shirt.
The new building will cost as much as $70 million, a little more than it would cost to upgrade IBM's current facility, the company said.
Though much smaller than the current 400,000-square-feet building, the new site will have satellite hookups, video conferencing capabilities and better circuitry for computers and cable television, IBM said. The new building could be completed within two years, if IBM receives zoning and legal approvals, the company said.
Mr. Gerstner, the first outsider to be hired to head the 70-year-old company, told employees about the changes yesterday. It is the latest of several moves by Mr. Gerstner to revamp IBM's image since he joined the company almost two years ago.
He has slashed costs by more than $6 billion, eliminated levels of management and ended a tradition of lifetime IBM employment by laying off employees for the first time.
To be sure, some analysts said the cosmetic changes are not the keystone of an effort to turn around IBM, which lost $16 billion from 1991 through 1993 and lost customers who didn't like what they perceived as a "We-know-what's-best" attitude.
"The cultural changes have to go well beyond appearances," said industry consultant Bob Djurdjevic. "They have to do with attitudes."