Abstract In this paper, the decoupling internal model control (IMC) with stability is investigated for multivariable stable processes with multiple time delays. All the stabilizing IMC controllers which solve this decoupling problem and the resulting closed-loop systems are characterized in terms of the open-loop system's time delays and non-minimum phase zeros. It shows that the inclusion of some time delays and non-minimum phase zeros might be necessary to make a decoupling solution realizable and stabilizing. Based on this characterization, a control design method for best achievable performance is presented. However, owing to the high complexity of the theoretical controller, a practical controller design procedure is developed with the help of the proposed model reduction algorithm. Examples are given to illustrate our analysis and design. Significant performance improvement over the existing multivariable Smith predictor control has been achieved with the proposed approach.