Advanced Micro Devices, in a surprise move, announced Oct. 8 that Rory Read, who had been CEO for three year, is stepping down and being replaced by Lisa Su, until now the company's chief operating officer.
In a conference call, Read said the leadership change was part of a succession plan he and the chip maker's board of directors had been working on for more than a year. The former CEO said that when he assumed the position in 2011 after coming over from AMD customer Lenovo, he had a three-step plan for turning around the company, which was being pummeled in the x86 chip space by larger rival Intel.
Read said he has accomplished the first two steps—resetting the company and then restructuring it. The last step is transforming the company, a step that focuses on technology, he said. That is Su's forte, he said.
"The part I'm good at, I've already done that part," Read said in the call with analysts and journalists, noting Su's experience in the semiconductor industry with Freescale and IBM. "I look at it as a natural move at this time. She is a semiconductor professional. … Now is the right time to take the reins."
Read will stay on with AMD in an advisory role through the end of the year.
For her part, Su said Read and the rest of the leadership and engineering teams that have come together over the past three years have done a good job of making AMD financially healthier and of diversifying the product portfolio.
"At our core, we are a product and technology company," Su said, adding that this next step in AMD's turnaround "is about technology. It's about creating differentiated and leadership IT."
Read, 52, came to AMD in 2011 after serving as Lenovo's president and COO to run a company that was struggling with products and deadlines, was continuing to lose market share in PCs and servers to Intel and—like it's competitor—was missing the transition to mobile computing. AMD was a company that relied on the global PC market for more than 90 percent of its revenues, and PC sales were about to begin a years-long decline.
Under Read, AMD restructured its leadership team, including bringing Su on board in 2012. That same year, began a plan to diversify AMD's portfolio and reduce its reliance on the PC space. The company would extend its reach into such areas as embedded and semi-custom chip making, ultraportable PCs, energy-efficient servers and graphics. During Read's tenure, AMD embraced the ARM architecture for low-power servers, pushed its heterogeneous computing efforts with its accelerated processing units (APUs), expanded its graphics capabilities and rolled out better products that hit the market on time.