Maybe the CEO job is overrated

It’s coming up on six months since Dirk Meyer was forced to resign as CEO of Advanced Micro Devices Inc., and the search for Meyer’s successor plods onward.

Last week, Bloomberg reported that four executives—longtime Intel Corp. exec Pat Gelsinger, Apple Inc. COO Tim Cook, former Hewlett Packard Co. CEO Mark Hurd and Carlyle Group Managing Director Greg Summe—all rejected overtures from AMD regarding its CEO vacancy. The Bloomberg article cited anonymous sources, but also included direct quotes from Gelsinger stating that he rejected AMD’s advances because he would prefer to become CEO of his current company, EMC Corp. (EMC’s current CEO, Joe Tucci, plans to step down next year).

“We aren’t commenting on any of the rumor/speculation that Bloomberg is reporting,” an AMD spokesperson said via email last week. “The search is obviously a priority and the board is moving the process forward to ensure that we select a person with the right vision, experience, and track record to lead AMD into the future and create increased shareholder value over time. We do not plan on communicating further until the search process is concluded.”

Thomas Seifert, AMD’s chief financial officer and interim CEO, said back in April that the company was actively interviewing CEO candidates (one would hope so) and that the search to fill Meyer’s seat was progressing. “The board is very happy with the interest we have received and is actively interviewing candidates,” Seifert said at that time.

Meanwhile, with Seifert—who has said he doesn’t want to be considered for the permanent CEO position—running the show on a temporary basis, AMD has been humming right along. In April, the company reported first quarter sales and income that beat Wall Street’s expectations despite lower shipments for microprocessors and graphics chips.  Last week, highly regarded semiconductor industry analyst Craig Berger of FBR Capital Markets upgraded AMD while simultaneously downgrading Intel, saying that AMD might be poised to pick up a few points of market share at Intel’s expense from customers like HP, Dell and Acer. Maybe the position of CEO is overrated.

In fairness, it should be pointed out that AMD’s stock price, which closed at $6.89 Monday (June 20), is off about 25 percent since Meyer’s resignation, (although Berger says AMD’s stock is “depressed” ahead of a possible boost in the second half of 2011 from sales of the company’s Fusion accelerated processing units).

“Fifteen to 20 years ago, this search would have been wrapped up in six to eight weeks,” said Harry R. Sacks, a veteran recruiter who runs a boutique semiconductor executive search firm, Harry R. Sacks Inc.

Sacks, who is not involved in AMD’s CEO search, said there could be any number of reasons why AMD is still searching for its next CEO. For one thing, he said, the number of people qualified to run a high-profile chip company is not that large.

“The way the industry has grown for the past 10 or 20 years, at that corporate management level, there’s not a huge talent pool,” Saks said.

According to Saks, IBM’s CEO search in 1993, which ultimately resulted in Big Blue naming the first CEO in its history to come from outside the company, Lou Gerstner, took around six months.

Gerstner is widely credited with pulling IBM out of a downward spiral. Despite the company’s relatively strong performance in the first half of this year, AMD’s next CEO faces daunting challenges as well. He or she will be charged with improving AMD’s performance in the perpetual battle with AMD while simultaneously positioning the company to face fierce new rivals by going after new markets, including media tablets (many believe that the lack of a timely AMD offering for the white hot tablet market is what led to Meyer’s demise). Given the magnitude of these challenges, perhaps it’s no wonder that AMD’s CEO position remains vacant.  

Source:  EEtimes

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