Comment Normally, a succession plan is a good thing. You want the new CEO to slide into the old CEO's chair with an ease that says, "Our asses were molded by the same country club rib eyes and crème brûlées. Everything is under control."
Yesterday, though, AMD could have done with some unforeseen CEO-swapping spatter. It should have blown the succession idea to bits. Maybe then the public could take claims of cultural and procedural change with some semblance of sincerity.
Rather than bombing its succession plan, AMD simply blew another quarter. A $1.19bn loss arrived on the back of $880m in charges tied to ATI - that company AMD acquired for, oh, about $2.5bn too much. When added to the disastrous Barcelona delay debacle, this miserable quarter and AMD's blunder with ATI were enough to push Hector Ruiz out of the CEO spot and into the, um, Executive Chairman position.
AMD means business, investors. Just not the kind of business you think of as business. This is more like charity where plush leather chairs turn into super plush leather chairs.
Now Ruiz's hand-picked successor Dirk Meyer will take the long walk from the president's office to the CEO's office. The really nice thing about this transition is that Meyer can skip the briefings about how bad AMD has done over the past couple of years. Having been second in command, he knows the whole story.
A Brave Loser
During yesterday's second quarter confessional, Meyer sent Ruiz off with a few kind words.
"You courageously launched a global initiative for fair and open competition," he said, referring to the anti-trust lawsuit against Intel. "A battle we are winning for the benefit of the industry and consumers everywhere."
That's a helluva pep talk, general. We're reminded of the Grim War where Tasmania beat China into submission by constantly sinking its own boats.
There's one thing Ruiz is not and that's courageous.
He never had the guts to face The Register during his entire tenure as CEO. Apparently, we were never allowed to approach Ruiz because AMD executives found your reporter too abrasive. And yet Intel's brass - they of the Itanic - can face the challenge.
Ruiz also never had the guts to explain why AMD refused to sponsor golf tournaments.
Far more seriously, Ruiz has always seemed incapable of having the courage to own up to his failings.
The company veered toward flat out lying during the Barcelona mess, constantly promising the chip was just around the corner and that it would smash Intel when it shipped. The line sounded worse and worse as the months passed by and then, when AMD finally released the chip, it was a buggy disaster.
With regard to ATI, AMD has confessed to overpayment. The company may as well have confessed to making processors because everyone outside of AMD's executive inner-circle already knew it had plumped too far for ATI. Worst of all, AMD saddled itself with debt and a complex marriage just when it needed to be lean and mean.
Now AMD is off-loading the handheld and TV chip businesses inherited through ATI after already ridding AMD of its money-losing memory business via the Spansion spin-off.
Add up all of Ruiz's moves, and you're left with a $6.3bn loss during his time at the company - or at least what's left of it.
So, Ruiz is great at getting rid of everything besides himself.
Stepping up to accept these failures would have been really courageous. (My lord, what spectacular guts of his own Meyer showed just to liken suing Intel to a real battle. Would anyone in their right mind suggest Microsoft, for example, is courageous by lobbing anti-trust accusations at Google?)
Maybe AMD's board could have one-upped both Ruiz and Meyer with courage of the greatest proportions and picked someone not tied to the billions in losses as chief. Ah, but why bother with gravitas and tough decisions when you can put the same old Fail in the chair. ®