John Paczkowski

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Palm’s New Pilot: Jon Rubinstein [UPDATED]

“The key thing was our CEO, Ed Colligan, had the insight that once the [BlackBerry] Pearl came out, the smart-phone business was going to be a consumer business, and Palm was not positioned for that and needed a major transformation, and that’s what we got involved in doing. The whole notion was you wanted to take that cultural legacy of innovation that created the Pilot and the Treo and then apply it to the next customer.”

–Roger McNamee lauds Palm CEO Ed Colligan at our recent D: All Things Digital conference

Now we know why it was Palm executive chairman Jon Rubinstein and investor Roger McNamee on stage at D last month talking up the Pre, and not CEO Ed Colligan: Colligan was on his way out.

On Wednesday, Palm (PALM) named Rubinstein as its new chairman and CEO. Come Friday he’ll succeed Colligan, who is leaving the company after 16 years to join McNamee at Elevation Partners. Apparently Palm, who recruited Rubinstein, a former Apple (AAPL) engineer, to turn the company around has decided it would much rather have him in its highest office than Colligan under whose leadership it was foundering.

In a statement, Rubinstein–who has spent the past two years quarterbacking the development of the Pre and its webOS–welcomed his new role. “I am very excited about taking on this expanded role at Palm,” he said. “Ed and I have worked very hard together the past two years, and I’m grateful to him for everything he’s done to help set the company up for success. With Palm webOS we have ten-plus years of innovation ahead of us, and the Palm Pre is already one of the year’s hottest new products. Due in no small part to Ed’s courageous leadership, we’re in great shape to get Palm back to continuous growth, and we plan to keep the trajectory going upward.”

Reached for comment late Wednesday afternoon, Roger McNamee offered up this rather canned statement on Palm’s leadership transition: “With Ed’s decision to step down, Jon Rubinstein is the natural choice to lead Palm into its next phase of growth. Jon has proven to have exactly the right mix of product vision, organizational leadership and operational capabilities to help Palm regain a leadership position. We are grateful for the leadership role Ed has played in initiating this transformation and getting through the successful launch of webOS and the Pre.”

Palm shares are up 3.75 percent at $12.44 on the news.