On June 21, Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) announced that Brian Krzanich, who had been the company's CEO since May 2013, had resigned. Current CFO Bob Swan, who joined the chip giant in 2016, is now serving as interim CEO while the company's board of directors conducts a search for a permanent CEO.
About a year ago, I highlighted three potential candidates who could replace Krzanich (I'd been calling for Krzanich's termination for more than two years.) In this article, I'd like to offer an updated view of the potential candidates for the Intel CEO spot, as well as my thoughts on who will most likely get the gig.
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1. Murthy Renduchintala
Intel has historically promoted internal candidates to the CEO spot, and I think that it's highly likely that the board of directors will have a preference for internal candidates this time around, too. Since Swan has indicated that he doesn't want to be Intel's permanent CEO, the most obvious internal candidate is the company's current chief engineering officer, Murthy Renduchintala.
Renduchintala joined Intel from Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) late in 2015, where he previously served as the co-president of Qualcomm CDMA Technologies, Qualcomm's successful chip development organization.
The reason that I think Renduchintala is the most likely candidate to succeed Krzanich is simple: He's the most qualified for the job. Not only does he have substantial experience running key product development organizations within Intel, but, following a recent shake-up, the company's flailing chip manufacturing organization now reports to Renduchintala's group. In fact, his group was recently renamed the technology, systems architecture and client group, or TSCG, to reflect this reorganization.
If I could bet on the outcome of Intel's CEO search, I'd put my money on Renduchintala.
2. Stacy Smith
At the end of January 2018, Intel Group President of Manufacturing, Operations and Sales Stacy Smith retired from the company. This retirement struck me as odd because the executive, a multidecade Intel veteran, is only 54 years old. I can only speculate as to why he chose to retire, but if he did so because he didn't see a viable path to the CEO spot at the company, then now might be his golden opportunity to vie for the position.
Smith was reportedly considered for the CEO spot against Krzanich after Paul Otellini announced his departure from the company in late 2012, but obviously did not secure the job. Maybe the board of directors would be willing to consider him again this time around.
3. Sanjay Jha
Sanjay Jha was reportedly in the running for the Intel CEO spot last time, so it wouldn't be surprising if the board of directors considered him again. Jha was most recently the CEO of GLOBALFOUNDRIES, a pure-play contract chip manufacturer. Before his four-year stint at GLOBALFOUNDRIES, Jha was the CEO of Motorola Mobility, and before that, he ran Qualcomm's chip development division.
Jha is an interesting candidate because he has experience running a successful chip design house, a mobile device maker, and a contract chip manufacturing company (albeit one with a spotty execution track record). Moreover, since he recently stepped down from GLOBALFOUNDRIES, he'd presumably be amenable to taking up the role of running Intel.
Jha clearly has a resume that qualifies him to run Intel and I do think that the board of directors will seriously consider him for the role, but given that the board might be biased toward an internal candidate and that Renduchintala's resume looks about as competitive as Jha's, I don't think the odds are that high that they will choose him.
4. Simon Segars
One more candidate that I think could do a good job of running Intel is Simon Segars, who currently serves as the CEO of Arm, an incredibly successful company that builds a wide range of processor cores and related technologies to serve a broad range of markets. Arm also works closely with both contract chip manufacturers and other chip development companies, so Segars likely has the right experience and, frankly, the chops to run Intel.
The reason that I think Segars might be a long shot, though, is that Intel will probably be a more challenging company to try to run. Arm's business model and Intel's business model are pretty different and Intel is now something of a turnaround story (at least when it comes to technology execution) while Arm is firing on all cylinders. Segars may simply not want the headache of giving up his position at Arm to try to help turn Intel around.
I'm excited that Intel's getting a new CEO and I think that everybody on this list, as well as many others that I haven't put on the list, could do a better job than Krzanich ultimately did. It's not clear how long this CEO search will take, but my guess is that the board of directors will really want to get this right, and so it won't be a quick process.
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