The reorg of AMD earlier this summer was viewed as an opportunity for two executives to show their stuff as potential replacements for CEO Rory Read. Dr. Lisa Su became Chief Operating Officer, which is usually a stepping stone to the CEO slot, and John Byrne became senior vice president and general manager of the Computing and Graphics Business Group, reporting to Su.
Just four months later, AMD pulled the trigger and Su is now the CEO, replacing Read immediately. Read will stay with AMD in an advisory role through 2014. Byrne's position has not changed, although it would not be surprising if he left, as CEO contenders do tend to jump ship for new opportunities when passed over for the job.
AMD is stressing this was a planned transition. "Leadership succession planning has been a joint effort between Rory and the board and we felt that Lisa's expertise and proven leadership in the global semiconductor industry make this an ideal time for her to lead the company," said Bruce Claflin, chairman of AMD's board of directors in a statement.
On the one hand, he is not wrong. Read wasn't really meant to be a product visionary kind of guy, he was brought in to take over after Dirk Meyer left in 2011 and clean up a considerable mess. A lifelong IBM and then Lenovo guy, Read promoted the AMD brand and built connections with other industry players. He secured the deals to get AMD technology in the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. He also got the company back to profitability, reducing operating expenses over time.
On the other hand, some logs and news sites are suspicious of the timing of the move because AMD's numbers are due soon, and it missed its targets last quarter while Intel reported good earnings.
Whatever the case, now that Read has done what he was brought in to do, the company decided to go forward with a new CEO who was more familiar with AMD's products. That was the point of bumping Su to COO last June.
Su is AMD’s first female CEO. AMD now joins IBM, HP, Oracle and Yahoo with women at the helm. Hopefully she can get engineering moving, because AMD has been much slower than Intel and Nvidia in introducing new technology, and its usual response to something new from the competition is to slash prices. That's not a long-term strategy.