I don’t usually pay much attention to corporate executives and the hirings, firings and resignations thereof. It’s not that executives are unimportant, it’s that they’re not exactly what I’m passionate about. While I never pass up an opportunity to meet with an exec, I generally walk away more impressed after a conversation with a Fellow.


Today’s resignation of AMD’s former CEO Dirk Meyer seemed like reason to pay attention. It wasn’t a scandal or anything vile that led up to the resignation, just a good old fashioned differing of opinion. To quote AMD’s press release:

”However, the Board believes we have the opportunity to create increased shareholder value over time. This will require the company to have significant growth, establish market leadership and generate superior financial returns. We believe a change in leadership at this time will accelerate the company’s ability to accomplish these objectives.”

The implication being that Dirk’s plan for AMD wouldn’t result in significant growth, establish market leadership and generate superior financial returns. The question is what was Dirk’s plan and what direction does AMD’s Board of Directors believe it should be headed in instead?

Dirk Meyer has been nothing but good for AMD since he took control in 2008. As AMD points out Dirk successfully spun off Global Foundries (the industry as a whole may owe him thanks for that as it seems to be gearing up to be a major player in the future of chip manufacturing). In doing so Dirk also floated a sinking ship—AMD managed a return to profitability under his watch. We’re also on the cusp of AMD’s most active year ever. Brazos just launched and we’ll get both Llano and Bulldozer before the year is out. When was the last time AMD launched three different architectures in a 12 month period? Never, that’s when.

So what wasn’t Dirk prepared to do? AMD still doesn’t have a public ultra mobile (read: smartphone) strategy, but would that be enough to resign over? I don’t have any reason to believe that Bobcat wouldn’t eventually be folded into a smartphone SoC. AMD typically lets Intel open up a new market and then follows it in as an alternative. I suspect it’s a safer bet to let Intel duke it out with ARM for control of the smartphone market before deciding to enter. Based on the outcome there, AMD could choose to enter under either the x86 or ARM banners.

I was talking to Ryan Smith earlier tonight when the news broke and he mentioned something that caught my interest:

“Mark my words, at some point they're going to try to sell the company to ATIC. Let ATIC deal with fighting Intel, and the board/investors can pocket a nice profit. Certainly if you were trying to sell, you'd sack Dirk. He doesn't seem like the kind of guy that would let them do it.”

This is just one of the many reasons I love working with Ryan—he always looks at things at an angle I hadn’t previously considered. ATIC, the company funding Global Foundries, would be a good suitor for AMD. It has the resources to fund a fight with Intel as we’ve already seen from Global Foundries...oh, and it also happens to own a number of microprocessor fabs that conveniently are very well suited to manufacturing AMD microprocessors.

Obviously everything here is pure speculation. While Dirk saved AMD from extinction, the press release seems to indicate he wouldn’t be the right guy to take AMD to the point of making tons of money. With Intel executing as well as it has been, I’m not sure if a change in CEO will be enough to fix that. AMD needs an influx of revenue to fund the sort of projects it needs in order to gain significant market share. 

To be honest, I don’t know Dirk personally and I don’t know why he’d choose to part ways with AMD. Changes like this are usually the result of something significant however. We’ll probably find out the answer in the next 24 months.



View All Comments

  • Taft12 - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    Fewer and fewer x86 servers now that we are in the multi-core and virtualization era. Reply
  • sviola - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    I think he was talking about profit. While ARM may be in a lot more devices, an arm cpu sells for $10, while a x86, sells for $100. So, probably the x86 has a larger part of the profit market. Reply
  • 6553321 - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    > we're making billions in profits every year

    This is correct. They are making a lot of profit and more than their competitors ever have.

    > selling more computers than our competition has - in their entire history

    This is absolutely incorrect. In fact it is just the opposite. ARM sells more chips in a year than Intel has ever sold.
  • JHBoricua - Wednesday, February 9, 2011 - link

    >This is absolutely incorrect. In fact it is just the opposite. ARM sells more chips in a year than Intel has ever sold.

    The correct statement is that there are more ARM based processors shipped in a year vs. x86 processors.

    ARM doesn't manufacture or sells CPUs. They sell licenses for their design and collect royalties.
  • Stuka87 - Monday, January 10, 2011 - link

    Both a surprise and not at the same time. I personally think he was doing a good job. He had certainly done more right than wrong in my opinion. However, Ryan makes a good point.

    Although I think the boards excuse of not growing enough seems like a cop-out. You can't simply grow just by saying "lets grow". The fact that he took the company from losing fist fulls of money to making a profit shows the company had significant amounts of growth from a monetary point of view. Although I understand some of that came from cost cutting.

    But anyway, I hope this isn't in a bid to sell the company just so a few people can make some money. As I am not sure its in the best interest of the company itself (ignoring the wants of the investors to just make money).
  • MeanBruce - Monday, January 10, 2011 - link

    Personally, I can't wait until the movie comes out! Reply
  • The Crying Man - Monday, January 10, 2011 - link

    They could call it x86'd Reply
  • AmdInside - Monday, January 10, 2011 - link

    Dirk Bulldozed by BoD? Reply
  • MeanBruce - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    That's Hilariuos! Reply
  • Mr Perfect - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - link

    Nice! Your one of those clever morning people, aren't you? Reply

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