Two More Top AMD Executives Step Down

AMD on Wednesday said two of its highest-ranking executives have resigned -- almost a month to the day after the resignation of AMD's chief executive Dirk Meyer.

Chief Operating and Administrative Officer Bob Rivet and Senior Vice President of Corporate Strategy Marty Seyer are stepping down effective Feb. 8, according to an AMD Securities and Exchange Commission filing. However, Rivet and Seyer will remain with AMD briefly to help facilitate the transition, an AMD spokesperson wrote in an email to CRN on Wednesday.

"Bob Rivet and Marty Seyer made significant contributions to the company over the years," AMD said. "Both are leaving to pursue new opportunities and are expected to remain through a brief interim period to help ensure seamless transitions.

AMD said its Corporate Strategy team will now report to Harry Wolin, senior vice president, general counsel and secretary. John Docherty, AMD's senior vice president of manufacturing operations has taken over responsibility for all aspects of AMD's product manufacturing process, AMD said.

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AMD said Doherty now leads AMD’s Global Operations organization, which includes AMD’s Assembly, Test, Mark and Pack operations, Supply Chain, Global Supply Management, Global Logistics, and Sales & Operations Planning.

"Docherty is playing a key role overseeing the transition to 32 nm," AMD said. AMD has been moving from the 45 nm process in chip fabrication to a 32 nm expected average memory cell, which rival Intel began offering in January 2010. AMD's 23 nm A-Series Llano APU, part of its new Fusion integrated graphics platform, is set to appear in products at mid-year.

Doherty will report directly to Thomas Seifert, AMD's chief financial officer and interim CEO in the wake of Meyer's departure. AMD told CRN the departure of its executives will not affect AMD's channel operations.

"Today’s departures don’t have any impact on our approach to the channel, and AMD’s channel approach/relations remain unaffected and unchanged," AMD said.

However, Brad Penner, manager of Steinbach, Md.-based system builder and AMD partner eBytes Computers, said AMD is struggling to gain market share in the mobile market in particular, and the departure of three top executives in one month is further evidence of those difficulties.

"You see them blowing smoke," Penner said. "But the proof is in the pudding. They are struggling to compete right now."

Despite AMD's organizational re-shuffling and prompt announcement of replacements for Rivet and Seyer, some system builders note a general sense of uncertainty in AMD's corporate leadership.

Next: AMD's Leadership Flux

"It kind of makes you wonder who's in charge at AMD, because a lot of the big names we've seen there for years are gone now," said Todd Swank, vice president of marketing at Burnsville, Minn.-based system builder Nor-Tech. "I am sure its concerning for AMD's shareholders and employees, because there's a vacuum of leadership right now and it just seems like the shakeup continues."

Penner said that AMD's shareholders may have, along with its board of directors, pushed for the changes at the top.

"It's very interesting that all the top brass booted themselves out pretty much at the same time," Penner said. "Were they under the pressure? Were the shareholders involved, or the board involved with a shakeup like that?"

Immediately following Meyer's resignation last month, AMD'S board of directors began its search for a permanent CEO. The board's chairman said at the time that AMD is looking for new leadership to spur growth, establish leadership in the market, and generate higher financial returns.

A system builder who spoke on condition of anonymity said the departures are likely to change certain aspects of AMD's product strategy, and perhaps its release schedule.

"We need to see the latest product launch roadmap updates from AMD before determining how the changes on AMD’s upper management will impact their upcoming marketing strategies," the system builder said. "The departure of various upper level AMD management personnel, including the CEO, COO, and others, will probably impact AMD’s upcoming product launches, and also impact AMD’s ability to capitalize on Intel’s recent Sandy Bridge recalls."

Intel recalled its Sandy Bridge processors last week after discovering and fixing a design error in its series 6 chipset, code-named Cougar Point. Intel this week resumed shipments of Sandy Bridge units in systems that weren't affected by the flaw, although Intel expects the repairs to cost $700 million.

System builders say AMD has not been able to build momentum from Intel's public mistake, the system builder said, as AMD faces continuing uncertainty resulting from changes in its leadership.

"AMD could have benefited from Intel's Sandy Bridge recall but we're hearing the Sandy Bridge flaw is not as much of a liability as we'd expected," Swank said.

AMD's resellers in the channel asked whether a change in leadership will translate to AMD achieving its goal of gaining a larger share of the market -- especially given the emergence of mobile embedded devices such as tablets and netbooks. Currently, British chipmaker ARM holds 87 percent market share in mobile processing. AMD's main rival in the GPU space, Nvidia, has launched an ARM-based Tegra 2 mobile processor and is scheduled to release ARM-based Project Denver processors later this year.

Next: More On The Mobile Challenge

"If you look at what's going on in the mobile marketplace, you notice the recent strength in ARM and Nvidia," Swank said. "Maybe Intel and AMD are both behind the eight-ball, but Intel has all the money in the world."

On the whole, Swank said AMD offers competitive, reliable products for a variety of markets, but that may simply not be enough stave off mobile device cannibalization and market penetration.

"Right now, I'm hearing good things about AMD's products in the PC space: their graphics cards, server processors, and their desktop processors are all very competitive products," Swank said. "But is that enough to withstand this revolutionary change? As customers move towards buying tablets, slates and, smartphones -- where does that leave AMD?"