Marek’s Take: Is Intel’s CEO search nearly over?

Intel sign
Even though seven months seems like a long time without a permanent replacement, it’s actually not that unusual for a CEO search to take many months. (FierceWireless)
Marek's take

Hello again, FierceWireless readers, it has been awhile. After a two-and-a-half-year hiatus from FierceWireless to work for a startup, I’m currently taking some time off to travel the world and see some sights other than trade show convention halls. However, I’ll be checking in every now and then to provide you with my latest insights and observations on the telecom world. 

It’s been seven months since former Intel CEO Brian Krzanich was ousted from his job for violating the company’s nonfraternization policy by having a past consensual relationship with an employee. And during the intervening months we’ve heard many rumors about potential successors including former Motorola CEO Sanjay Jha, Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger, and former Intel executive Anand Chandrasekher, who most recently headed up Qualcomm’s data center chip business. Another rumored candidate is former Intel President Renee James, who is now CEO of Amphere, a startup semiconductor company. 

The company also is said to be evaluating various internal candidates, including Murthy Renduchintala, president of Intel’s Technology, Systems Architecture & Client Group and chief engineering officer at Intel.

But so far none of those candidates have been confirmed and some, like VMware’s Gelsinger, have been upfront about their lack of interest in the role.

Although her name wasn’t mentioned much, I was hopeful that perhaps the board would select Aicha Evans, formerly Intel’s chief strategy officer and a 12-year veteran of the company. Evans was a big champion of Intel’s 5G business and a frequent speaker at wireless industry events. But earlier this month autonomous vehicle startup Zoox appointed Evans as its new CEO and gave her the task of reinventing the struggling car company.

Interestingly, Evans isn’t the only former Intel executive to make the move to the automotive industry. In November, CDK Global, which makes software for the automotive industry, hired Krzanich to be its CEO. 

I guess it’s not that surprising that Krzanich ended up at the helm of an automotive-related firm. While he was Intel’s CEO the company purchased Mobileye, a maker of driver assistance technology, for $15.3 billion. And it also introduced Intel GO, an autonomous car platform.

Who’s left?

Intel’s CFO Robert Swan has been acting as interim CEO since Krzanich left abruptly in June but most insiders say he is not interested in becoming the permanent leader.

And even though seven months seems like a long time without a permanent replacement, it’s actually not that unusual for a CEO search to take many months. Ericsson took six months to appoint Borje Ekholm to CEO after it fired Hans Vestberg. (Vestberg, of course, went on to secure the top spot at Verizon.) And Microsoft took five months to replace longtime CEO Steve Ballmer with new CEO Satya Nadella.

But in Intel’s case, investors are likely antsy for a solution. The company’s stock has taken a bit of a hit. Since Krzanich’s departure in June Intel’s stock has been trading down 12%.

Plus, the company’s competition is coming on strong. At CES 2019 earlier this month, AMD CEO Lisa Su impressed attendees with her keynote speech touting AMD’s latest innovations in CPUs and GPUs. Interestingly, there’s even some speculation that Su’s leadership of AMD is so impressive that Intel may be itching to lure her away. However, most believe that’s unlikely as Su seems very committed to AMD’s long-term success.

On Jan. 15, Axios reported that Johny Srouji, Apple’s SVP of hardware technologies, is the latest executive to be considered for Intel’s top job, but so far Intel has remained mum on Srouji.

But the speculation over Intel’s CEO search may be wrapping up soon. A new Bloomberg report indicates that the Intel board is hoping to announce its new CEO before it reports its earnings on Jan. 24.

Will the new Intel leader be Apple’s Srouji? AMD’s Su? Or an Intel insider? I think Intel will play it safe and pick an internal candidate rather than an outsider who might shake things up. If all goes to Intel’s plan, we may learn the answer this week. — Sue

Sue Marek has been reporting on the telecom and tech industries for more than 25 years. Most recently, she was editor in chief at SDxCentral, where she oversaw all of that site’s editorial content. Prior to that she was editor in chief of FierceMarkets' Telecom Group, where she managed a team of editors and was responsible for the content for several of the company’s websites, newsletters and live events. Sue is a frequent speaker at industry events and has moderated panels for the Consumer Electronics Show, the Competitive Carriers’ Show, The Wireless Infrastructure Show, 5G North America, DC 5G, Interop, and more. Follow @SueMarek on Twitter and find her on LinkedIn.