In an abrupt announcement, Rory Read has stepped down from his positions at AMD, leaving them to Dr. Lisa Su. Until today, Mr. Read served as president and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the x86 chip designer and Dr. Su as Chief Operating Officer (COO). Today however, Dr. Su has become president and CEO, and Mr. Read will stay on for a couple of months as an adviser during the transition.
Josh Walrath, editor here at PC Perspective, tweeted that he was "Curious as to why Rory didn't stay on longer? He did some good things there [at AMD], but [it's] very much an unfinished job." I would have to agree. It feels like an odd time, hence the earlier use of the word "abrupt", to have a change in management. AMD restructured just four months ago, which was the occasion for Dr. Su to be promoted to COO. In fact, at least as far as I know, no-one is planned to fill her former position as COO.
These points suggest that she was planned to take over the company for at least several months.
I have been told that timing is everything. I guess this rings true, but only if you truly know the circumstances around any action. Today’s announcement by AMD was odd in its timing, but it was not exactly unexpected. As Scott mentioned above, I was confused by this happening now. I had expected Rory to be in charge for at least another year, if not two. Rory had hinted that he was not planning on being at AMD forever, but was aiming at creating a solid foundation for the company and to help shore up its finances and instill a new culture. While the culture is turning due to pressure from up top as well as a pretty significant personnel cuts, AMD is not quite as nimble yet as they want to be.
Rory’s term has seen the return of seasoned veterans like Jim Keller and Raja Koduri. These guys are helping to turn the ship around after some fairly mediocre architecturse on the CPU and GPU sides. While Raja had little to do with GCN, we are seeing some aggressive moves there in terms of features that are making their products much more competitive with NVIDIA. Keller has made some very significant changes to the overall roadmap on the CPU side and I think we will see some very solid improvements in design and execution over the next two years.
Lisa Su was brought in by Rory shortly after he was named CEO. Lisa has a pretty significant background in semiconductors and has made a name for herself in her work with IBM and Freescale. Lisa attained all three of her degrees from MIT. This is not unheard of, but it is uncommon to stay in one academic setting when gaining advanced degrees. Having said that, MIT certainly is the top engineering and science school in the nation (if not the world). I’m sure people from RPI, GT, and CalTech might argue that, but it certainly is an impressive school to have on your resume.
Dr. Su has seemingly been groomed for this transition for quite some time now. She went from a VP to COO rather quickly, and is now shouldering the burden of being CEO. Lisa has been on quite a few of the quarterly conference calls and taking questions. She also serves on the Board of Directors at Analog Devices.
I think that Lisa will continue along the same path that Rory set out, but she will likely bring a few new wrinkles due to her experience with semiconductor design and R&D at IBM. We can only hope that this won’t become a Dirk Meyer 2.0 type situation where a successful engineer and CPU architect could not change the course of the company after the disastrous reign of Hector Ruiz. I do not think that this will be the case, as Rory did not leave the mess that Hector did. I also believe that Lisa has more business sense and acumen than Dirk did.
This change, at this time, has provided some instability in the markets when regarding AMD. Some weeks ago AMD was at a near high for the year at around $4.66 per share. Right now it is hovering at $3.28. I was questioning why the stock price was going down, and it seems that my question was answered. One way or the other, rumors of Rory taking off reached investors’ ears and we saw a rapid decline in share price. We have yet to see what Q3 earnings look like now that Rory has rather abruptly left his position, but people are pessimistic as to what will be announced with such a sudden departure.