Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) said COO Steve Mollenkopf will succeed Paul Jacobs as CEO next March, which would end an era in which the Jacobs family has held sway at the chipset giant.
Mollenkopf has been appointed to Qualcomm's board and will continue to serve as the company's president, and will take the reins as CEO as of March 4, 2014, following the company's 2014 annual shareholder meeting. Jacobs will become executive chairman, and will help "guide development of new technology and Qualcomm's long-term opportunities," according to the company.
Jacobs has served as CEO since 2005, and has guided Qualcomm to huge growth as smartphone and then tablets have taken off. Jacobs' father, Irwin, who co-founded Qualcomm, served as CEO for its first 20 years, from 1985 to 2005.
Mollenkopf, who has spent almost 20 years with Qualcomm and the last two as COO, has held a variety of leadership positions including leading the QCT chipset unit, pushing Qualcomm into a leadership position in the LTE market. Mollenkopf also drove Qualcomm's $3.1 billion acquisition of Atheros, the company's largest acquisition to date, to give the company a leg up in the Wi-Fi market.
"I am honored to have been chosen by the board to lead Qualcomm into the next exciting era of the company," Mollenkopf said in a statement. "Qualcomm's focus on execution in product and technology development has helped to establish us as a leader in wireless with our partners. I look forward to working with our executive team and our employees in driving growth for our company and the entire mobile ecosystem as it transitions to 4G and beyond."
Jacobs, Qualcomm cannily noted, "will remain an employee" of the company and will help guide its future strategies and direction. "I am very proud of what we have accomplished during my time as CEO and look forward to being part of the company's continued success. At its heart, Qualcomm is a company of inventors and entrepreneurs and I'm excited by the opportunities that lay ahead as we continue to push the boundaries of technology in mobile and beyond," Jacobs said in a statement. "I want to congratulate Steve on his expanded role. I have the utmost confidence in him and in the rest of the management team that they will continue to drive technical and business innovations, ensuring the growth and future of Qualcomm. I very much look forward to continuing to work with Steve."
Analysts were generally positive on the development. "Obviously Paul is still a very young man, so (this is) not something that many of us were expecting but something that has likely been in the works for some time," Williams Financial Group analyst Cody Acree told Reuters.
"Mollenkopf had effectively been running the day-to-day operations of the company, so we don't expect daily operations to change materially," Rod Hall, an analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co., wrote in a research note.
Qualcomm's chip business "has been phenomenally successful under his leadership," Stacy Rasgon, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, told the Wall Street Journal, referring to Mollenkopf. Letting Mollenkopf focus on operations and Jacobs on new technology "is a good splitting up of responsibilities," he said.
Bloomberg just yesterday reported that, according to unnamed sources, Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) board was considering Mollenkopf for its own CEO slot to replace the retiring Steve Ballmer. That speculation is now moot. The report had said Mollenkopf was on a list of several choices "under serious consideration" as the board works to decide on a CEO as early as the end of this year.
The report also said the list includes Microsoft executive Satya Nadella and external candidates. Nokia (NYSE:NOK) executive Stephen Elop, who was formerly with Microsoft, as well as Oracle President Mark Hurd, have also reportedly been in the mix. Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally could still be in contention, but his candidacy has faded "amid concerns about his lack of technology experience," the report said. Mulally will stay at the automaker through 2014, Ford board member Edsel Ford II recently said, reiterating the company's timetable.
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