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Intel Names Bob Swan As CEO, 7th Leader In Firm's 50-Year History

Intel names interim leader Bob Swan as its permanent CEO despite previously telling employees and the media that he wasn’t interested in the role.

Intel on Thursday named interim leader Bob Swan as its permanent CEO, making him the seventh person to lead the company in its 50-year history.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company said Swan, who joined Intel as CFO in 2016, has also been elected to the company's board of directors. Todd Underwood, Intel's vice president of finance, has been appointed interim CFO while the company searches for a permanent successor.

[Related: 5 Things To Know About Intel Interim CEO Robert Swan]

Swan reportedly told employees in the past that he wasn't interested in the permanent CEO role — a line he recently reiterated to CNBC — but he apparently came around to the idea.

“In my role as interim CEO, I’ve developed an even deeper understanding of Intel’s opportunities and challenges, our people and our customers,” Swan said in a statement. “When I was first named interim CEO, I was immediately focused on running the company and working with our customers. When the board approached me to take on the role permanently, I jumped at the chance to lead this special company."

Andy Bryant, Intel's chairman, said the company concluded that Swan, a former eBay executive, "is the right leader to drive Intel into its next era of growth" after conducting a search that lasted several months.

"We considered many outstanding executives and we concluded the best choice is Bob," Bryant said in a statement. "Important in the board’s decision was the outstanding job Bob did as interim CEO for the past seven months, as reflected in Intel’s outstanding results in 2018. Bob’s performance, his knowledge of the business, his command of our growth strategy, and the respect he has earned from our customers, our owners, and his colleagues confirmed he is the right executive to lead Intel.”

Swan became interim CEO last June following the sudden resignation of Brian Krzanich, an Intel veteran who was forced out by the company's board after it discovered that he had a prior relationship with an employee, a violation of company policy. Krzanich joined Intel as an engineer in 1982, eventually working his way up the corporate ladder to become CEO in 2013.

In an email to employees, customers and partners, Swan said his biggest learning from his last seven months as interim CEO is "how important we all are to our customers." Moving forward, he said the company will focus on four "critical imperatives": being "bold and fearless," improving execution, evolving Intel's culture and listening closely to customers.

Swan said Intel's core strategy of becoming a data-centric company hasn't changed.

"What will change is how we serve our customers and how we partner and build the best technology together," he said in the email. "By listening closely to how we can make our customers’ lives better by helping them delight their customers, we will all win."

Prior to joining Intel in 2016, Swan was an operating partner at growth equity firm General Atlantic. Previously, he was CFO at eBay for more than nine years. He has served as CFO at other companies, including GE Lighting. He also once served as CEO of an online grocery startup called Webvan that was among the companies to shut down during the dot-com crash in the late 2000s.

The naming of Intel's CEO comes at a critical time for the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company, which has forecasted a slowdown in its data center business this year as it faces increased competition from AMD and companies building their own Arm-based processors in both the client and server markets. AMD announced at CES 2019 that its 7-nanometer CPUs for client and server will arrive mid-2019, several months before Intel is expected to release its first 10nm processors.

The company has been grappling with processor shortages that has had a wide-ranging impact on the computer industry, including partners who are facing delayed shipments and higher prices. Swan told analysts in the company's most recent earnings call that he expects supply to improve by mid-2019.

Candidates for the CEO role reportedly included Intel Chief Engineering Officer Venkata Murthy Renduchintala, Intel data center head Navin Shenoy and Apple hardware executive Johny Srouji, as well as former Intel executives Diane Bryant, who recently joined Broadcom's board, and Stacy Smith, who became executive chairman of Toshiba Memory Corp. last fall. Qualcomm President Cristiano R. Amon was also reportedly on the shortlist.

Bob Venero, CEO of Holbrook, N.Y.-based solution provider Future Tech, a top Intel enterprise partner, said Swan's appointment as CEO is a "smart" move for Intel, which has faced severe processor supply constraints that have hit the channel hard.

"With Bob Swan Intel has chosen someone that has domain knowledge and knows what is going on in terms of the delivery issues, security issues like Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities, and the financial issues associated with those problems," said Venero. "Having someone with that kind of knowledge is a huge benefit to the channel."

Venero said he is optimistic that Swan will get to the heart of the processor supply chain issues, which cost Future Tech itself $4 million in lost sales at the end of 2018. "We were not able to fulfill those orders for desktops, servers and notebooks as a result of the processor shortage," he said. "Fifty percent of those orders were lost because that budget for those purchases did not roll over into the new year."

Venero said he has been approached by AMD to carry AMD processors as an alternative to Intel. "My hope is that Swan can right the ship, which is not on a great course right now as far as the channel is concerned," he said.

Intel needs to drive a tighter bond with top channel partners and consider those partners to be just as strategic as top OEMs, said Venero.

"If I have one question to ask of Mr. Swan, it is that he needs to get more feedback on coverage models and challenges in the field," he said.

Michael Tanenhaus, CEO of Mavenspire, an Annapolis, Md.-based Intel partner, said Swan just might be the key ingredient Intel needs in 2019, which will be a critical year for innovation and execution.

“[Swan] will be put in an interesting place. If you talk about product launches, most of the Intel people are pretty excited because there’s as much new stuff coming out in one year across multiple, different product lines as there has been over the last decade. So it’s a really interesting, pivotal year where they’re bringing to market stuff that has been in R&D for decades,” said Tanenhaus. “So there’s all of this new technology that’s world changing coming out of Intel this year.”

Tanenhaus said Intel likely made the right move in choosing a longtime chief financial officer who knows the Intel ropes.

“When an operations or finance person goes to the big seat, there’s always that question, ‘What are they going to bring to the table?’ If [Swan] can bring the stability and financing to really drive an opportunity for them – that’s amazing,” he said. “Think what happened when Tim Cook took over for Steve Jobs. Everyone spent a couple of years saying, ‘Are they going to lose their way?’ I think a lot of people were pretty negative about it. But they crossed the trillion dollar [market valuation] mark. It’s sometimes getting your house in order operationally, is the thing you need to win.”

Mark Haranas and Steve Burke contributed to this story.

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