Generally speaking, the journey from CIO to CEO is rare. Making the CIO-to-CEO jump without changing employers is even rarer. But James Blackledge is about to complete that journey at Mutual of Omaha. Here's when.

Blackledge isn't your typical technology-to-business leader transition story. He joined Mutual of Omaha in 1989 as a senior actuarial assistant. He climbed the internal ranks and by the early 2000s was senior VP and product line officer in the company's Financial Services business unit. By 2009, his focus shifted the IT side of the business -- earning the executive VP and CIO title. His role expanded to include chief risk officer in 2012.

Then came the president post in November 2014 -- and a clear announcement that Blackledge would eventually succeed CEO Dan Neary sometime in 2015. But when? The answer came this week, when Mutual of Omaha announced the transition, effective April 1, 2015.

Neary has held the CEO post since 2004, leading the company to record operating income and record revenue of $6.9 billion in 2014. Blackledge will strive to maintain that momentum.

Bigger Picture

Few CIOs make the leap to the CEO post. Even fewer complete the transition without changing employers. Among the reasons why: Many corporate IT departments are viewed as cost centers rather than innovation centers that drive new revenue opportunities. That perception has gradually changed in recent years -- especially as CIOs leverage data, mobile and cloud services to move businesses closer to their customers.

Still, for those CIOs who do become CEOs, the journey often involves jumping from one company to another. A few examples:

  • John Boushy, former Harrah's Entertainment CIO, became Ameristar Casinos CEO in 2006 and now runs his own consulting company.
  • Guy Chiarello, former JPMorgan Chase CIO, became president of First Data in 2013 and still holds that position.
  • Dawn Lepore, former Charles Schwab CIO, became Drugstore.com CEO in 2004; she's now CEO at Lake Bay Partners.
  • Raj Rawal, former Burger King CIO, became CEO of Fresh Diet in 2013 and still consults with that company.

Blackledge is the latest person to make the CIO to CEO jump. But he's the rare executive who didn't have to change employers to do so.

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