AMD's Jerry Sanders Makes The Short List of CEO Candidates

With Dirk Meyer out the door and AMD publicly hunting for its new CEO there's a great deal of speculation as to who AMD might want sitting in the center seat. The board's options may be more limited than it likes; several analysts have raised questions as to the BoD's credibility in the wake of Meyer's dismissal. AMD announces its Q4 earnings later today; questions about Meyer's departure will undoubtedly be on everyone's lips.

Speaking to EETimes, Andy Price, a managing partner at the executive search firm Schweichler Price Mullarkey and Barry, said: "The first question people are going to ask is, 'What's the real story about Dirk." Asked how the BoD's actions had been received, Price pointed to the credibility issue. "That's what people are thinking about AMD's board. They need to fix that yesterday," Price said. "If they are smart, what they [board members] will do is think long and hard about how to define this visionary that they publicly described."

AMD is reportedly doing everything it can not to name a current AMD employee. Given the general scarcity of CEOs with experience running semiconductor manufacturers, some of the names on the company's hypothetical short list will sound familiar. Current favorites include Pat Gelsinger (currently with EMC but spent 30 years at Intel), Anand Chandrasekher (22 years at Intel, currently head of the company's Ultra Mobility Group), and Craig Barratt (current CEO of Atheros). Perhaps most interestingly, AMD may ask one of its own founders, Jerry Sanders, to retake his previous position as CEO.

If Jerry was a dog he'd look something like this

Before he departed in 2002, Sanders helmed AMD for over thirty years. During that period he built a reputation as a charismatic, people-focused CEO whose determination and tenacity were the stuff of legend. In a world where lesser men compensated, Jerry Sanders advertised; he's said to have closed at least two major deals by staring at company representatives until they broke down and started crying.*

Joking aside, Sanders was known for his tell-it-like-it-is style. When asked in a 2001 interview why Intel was moving to 300mm wafers, Sanders answered:
Because their die is so goddamned big, they use that space up. If we have a competitive offering, we'll be able to undersell Intel. We'll be the lowest-cost provider, and we can beat them. But right now, what they're beating me with is their treasury, their market-development funds, their sweetheart deals, and their advertising. That's what I've got to overcome.
At 75, Jerry might not have the energy to take on the task of guiding AMD through difficult waters and may not want to even if he does.The fact that the Street is floating him as a genuine option is a sign that investors are deeply concerned about BoD's decision. Both Gelsinger and Chandrasekher are qualified for the job, both have decades of experience in highly relevant areas, but Sanders is a symbol of a dynamic, tenacious, scrappy AMD that resembles nothing so much as an angry Jack Russell Terrier.

AMD announces its Q4 earnings later this afternoon; we expect more details on the CEO search and Meyer's dismissal to be made available at that time.

*We might have made this part up.