AMD Executive Exodus Boots COO, Senior VP

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News Posted: Fri, Feb 11 2011 4:41 PM
When AMD announced roughly one month ago that it was firing Dirk Meyer as CEO, it touched off a controversial debate as to the reason for the CEO's dismissal. The fact that the dust from that decision has scarcely settled hasn't deterred AMD from wielding the axe again—this time it's chief operating officer Robert Rivet and senior VP for corporate strategy, Marty Seyer, whose heads are on the chopping block.

As with Meyer, AMD refused to provide additional information on why the new men are leaving the company, noting only that they intend "to pursue new opportunities." Unlike Meyer, who was forced out immediately, both Rivet and Seyer will stay on for a brief period to help smooth the transition to new leadership. The temporary absences will be filled by John Docherty, Devinder Kumar, and Harry Wolin, all of whom will absorb some of the responsibilities of the now-vacant offices without a change in title.

AMD took a moment to praise its departing employees, with company spokesperson Mike Silverman declaring that "They've both been with the company quite some time and have made significant contributions over the years." Absent, however, was any explanation for why AMD is canning the two or any update on how the company's search for a permanent CEO is proceeding. Seifert, pictured left, continues as interim CEO while the search continues.

The decision to jettison two more top-ranking executives won't do AMD's perception on Wall Street any favors; investors are typically leery of any company with a penchant for swapping top corporate employees. Between the two, Seyer's dismissal is easier to justify in terms of AMD's performance. Just under a year ago, on March 29, 2010, AMD simultaneously launched its new 8/12-core server CPUs and announced drastic price cuts to all current Opteron segments. It was a bold move for AMD to take but it ultimately failed to produce the growth Sunnyvale was looking for; company representatives we've spoken to have described 2010 as a 'difficult' year for Opteron.

With the dismissal of Rivet and Seyer, AMD is now helmed, almost without exception, by executives that joined the company in the last couple of years. Seifert (CEO/CFO) came aboard in 2009, while Akrout, Dessau (CMO) and Ghilardi (CSO) were all hired in 2008. Rick Bergman, the company's senior VP and general manager, came to AMD as part of the ATI merger in 2006, while only Allen Sockwell, AMD's Chief Talent Officer, stretches back to 2002.

This may be more than a coincidence. Meyer, Seyer, and Rivet were part of an earlier generation of AMD executives who were x86-centric and focused on competing with Intel. If the Board of Directors is set on seeing Sunnyvale move in a different direction, holdovers from the Jerry/Hector epoch might have become anachronistic in the eyes of the board. 
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AMD is self-destructing it seems. Though their current executive board didn't have a great track record (even though they inherited most of the mess), so perhaps a house-cleaning will be a positive move for them.

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rapid1 replied on Fri, Feb 11 2011 9:32 PM

The thing with all of this especially now that the whole three CE,F, and S O are gone is what are they going to do. In general a corporate top end such as this had a planned outlook as well as path forward. With all of them gone every bit of vision for the company after the past 3 or 4 years is completely gone. Plus on top of this not only do investors have a bad outlook on companies like this, but so do future top end employees. In a tier ratio such as this that means they ask for significantly more than the last players in these role's received. So not only will AMD be scrapping an entire long term outlook, but they will pay considerably more to get a new one, and it will take time to implement I would imagine. Not only is this type of thing hard for a company that is in decent financial state, but tripley so for a company that is not such as AMD, who as far as it has been reported has been floating on fumes for quite some time. While they have been coming out of that state in the last two years, and primarily in this past one, everyone who implemented all of the steps to get them where they are now are gone. So if this board does not only make fast, but also very good decisions, I would say that there are only a couple more nail's left in the coffin. We will see, and of course they may get new partners etc in the near future that may help save them, but I do not think it looks very good for AMD as a whole right now at all.

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LLeCompte replied on Sat, Feb 12 2011 12:06 AM

are they trying to get bought out by intel? because if they are, they are headed in the right direction.

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coolice replied on Sat, Feb 12 2011 12:25 AM

I have to disagree with that... if that happens... no more competition... that means the 300$ you pay for an intel chip will cost you 500$ in the future... why? no other company to go with.

Firing execs doesnt necessarily mean a company isnt doing well... it just needs to change.

AMD has made some good decisions in the past, buying out ati... their current gpu line up, i believe is months away from nvidia (months is quite a long time in terms of gpu's).

at this point i'd put a cool quote like.... it needs to be dark before you get sunlight? but instead, i'd rather say....its just another business decision.

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Super Dave replied on Sat, Feb 12 2011 12:37 AM

This isn't necessarily a bad omen for AMD. Nokia is in a similar position, and it's new CEO delivered a very sobering assessment to Nokia employees (see HERE). Having good people at the top is important!

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gibbersome replied on Sat, Feb 12 2011 12:51 AM

I think you meant “It's always darkest before the dawn." or there's one by Emerson that I prefer, "When it is darkest, men see the stars."

AMD is not out of the hunt by any means, and if AMD loses, the consumers lose too....lots of hundreds of dollars. Also note that the chip war has allowed for faster innovation. What incentive does Intel have to innovate quickly if their chief competition disappears?

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gibbersome replied on Sat, Feb 12 2011 12:52 AM

I was heartbroken when I heard they were going to kill the Symbian. Nokia made the right move by making the OS opensource (something Apple will never do), and I was really cheering for it to succeed.

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rapid1 replied on Sat, Feb 12 2011 2:58 AM

Yeah; I thought Nokia was already partners with Intel on Meego, so where does that go?

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