As part of AMD’s broader restructuring efforts, back in June the company announced a business reorganization that would see the company organized into two major groups, the Computing and Graphics Business Group, and the Enterprise, Embedded and Semi-Custom Business Group. Furthermore at the time AMD promoted Dr. Lisa Su to the position of Chief Operating Officer (COO), a position that previously had been unfilled at AMD for some time.

Now 4 months later it turns out that Lisa’s time as COO will be a short one. Today AMD has announced that effective immediately, current CEO Rory Read will be stepping down. In his place Lisa is being promoted to President and CEO of the company, making her the 5th CEO in the company’s history.

With Lisa’s previous promotion to COO, she had essentially already been promoted to AMD’s second-in-command under Rory, so this is a straightforward promotion over at AMD. More significantly, given the resurrection of the COO post there has been good reason to suspect that Lisa was bound for a promotion to CEO sooner than later. And now that AMD has finally promoted Lisa to CEO, they are confirming that the above was exactly the plan, and that Rory has been preparing her for the CEO role for some time.

For his part, the retirement of Rory signifies that AMD’s transition is nearly complete and that his role is coming to an end. Rory was brought on in 2011 to restructure and stabilize the company after its struggles late in the last decade and at the start of this one, with an emphasis on diversifying the company beyond its traditional (and troubled) x86 and graphics products. While AMD remains significantly vested in those products, they now have a sizable business presence in other fields/technologies such as ARM processors and semi-custom IP designs, which as part of AMD and Rory’s plans ensure the company isn’t overexposed to any single business. And on the financial side AMD is unfortunately still operating at a loss, but if all goes according to plan that should be coming to an end this year.

Though AMD has never called Rory a transitional CEO, his actions overhauling AMD over the last 3 years and now stepping down as CEO after the fact serve to cement the fact that Rory was brought on board to execute the necessary restructuring rather than to lead the company in the long term. AMD is still in the process of developing some of the silicon that will be the basis of these business plans – including the x86 and ARM versions of the K12 processor – so it will be a bit longer yet until the company can fully execute on their ambidextrous plans, but on the business and development side they have completed the necessary changes to allow that. With those changes behind them AMD is now ready to move out of their transitional phase and in to their new position as a diversified IP designer, which is what has led to Rory’s retirement and Lisa’s promotion.

Internally for AMD and its product lineups, Lisa’s promotion should not result in significant changes. She has already been overseeing much of AMD throughout her career there – first as SVP of Global Business Units and then as COO – meaning that although the CEO is changing, the person overseeing much of AMD’s product lineup is not. Working alongside AMD’s CTO, Mark Papermaster, AMD’s product leadership is more or less unchanged.

Meanwhile the transition from Rory to Lisa means that AMD is also once again being led by an engineer (and a very capable one at that), which AMD leadership is treating as a great strength going forward. Lisa holds a doctorate in electrical engineering from MIT and has previously held positions at IBM and Texas Instruments, including semiconductor research and development, and is much of the reason she joined the company at the SVP level in 2012. Being the CEO is about business as much as it is about technology, but with AMD’s business situation settled by Rory, this should give Lisa a chance to settle in and focus on driving and improving AMD’s technological situation, which is ultimately what will make or break the company. AMD now has a number of very capable engineers leading the company at multiple levels, including Lisa, CTO Mark Papermaster, and K12 designer Jim Keller, so the company should be in a good position going forward.

Finally, this promotion means that AMD’s executive lineup has been slightly shuffled once more. The COO position was recreated for Lisa and now it seems just for Lisa; it will not be filled now that she is CEO, and those responsibilities will be staying with her. Meanwhile AMD is also noting that while Rory is stepping down as CEO effective immediately, he will be staying with the company in an advisory role to help see out the company through the rest of 2014.

Source: AMD

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  • Mark_gb - Friday, October 10, 2014 - link

    Don't forget that in the past 3 years, AMD has been focused on integrating GCN into their APU's, Its only been in roughly the past year that we have seen APU's with GCN inside. And we have been seeing incremental improvements to GCN as well. The R9 285 is just the latest of those, There have been others as well. GCN today is a better GCN than what was out there 3 years ago. AMD is not calling these incremental improvements a specific number (but some of the media has been), but I believe that in the next 9 months, we will finally see GCN 2.0 and that it will be much more powerful than anything AMD has right now.
  • Samus - Thursday, October 9, 2014 - link

    What? How was Hector Ruiz a bad CEO? He led the Athlon-era, negotiating engineering talent from Alpha (which HP dissolved) and bringing unprecedented quality control to AMD, something he was well known for at Motorola (back in the 90's when Motorola had the lowest defect rate of communication equipment across the globe.)
  • eanazag - Thursday, October 9, 2014 - link

    The errata bug the plagued the first Phenoms was under his watch. I believe that was undoing and the fact that Intel kept beating him to products that AMD annouced before Intel, like quad cores. The Bulldozer architectures were philospohy failures that didn't make sense because AMD's IPC wins were the reason Intel produced the Core series procs. Also, those new CPUs couldn't beat the previous AMD CPUs, nevermind compete with Intel. It sent them back five years in the x86 market.

    I want to buy AMD, but I can't justify it based on the stagnant desktop procs and chipsets. With all that failure, the fact AMD is now close to being profitable is a feather in Read's hat.
  • chizow - Thursday, October 9, 2014 - link

    Ruiz definitely deserves some credit for their CPU leadership with K8, but he played a large negative role in their current quagmire with GloFo, as he was the one that orchestrated the sale of AMD's fabs to ATIC and negotiated the horrible Wafer Supply Agreements that continue to sandbag and choke AMD to this day.

    Shortly after he leaves AMD, we see why, he also negotiated himself a cherry new role as CEO of GloFo, but forced to leave the role shortly after amidst allegations of insider trading improprieties.

    Oh, and the overpayment for ATI also happened under his watch. So yeah, can't say Ruiz should be remembered favorably, much of AMD's heavy debt position can be directly attributed to executive decisions made by him and his board.
  • Homeles - Thursday, October 9, 2014 - link

    Ruiz would have had little to do with K8, which released only one year after he took the reigns. Ruiz pretty much single-handedly destroyed AMD, and is responsible for the failure that was the original Phenom.
  • chizow - Friday, October 10, 2014 - link

    Hmm yep you're right, I thought Ruiz took the reins in 2000, but it was actually 2002. So yeah I guess he was pretty worthless overall. Referring to original Phenom, you're talking about the TLB errata bug? Overall I thought Phenom was actually decent lol, certainly much more competitive than Bulldozer ended up. I can remember the day Bulldozer review launched and just being floored how bad Bulldozer was, to the point Phenom II was as fast or faster in many respects.
  • TiGr1982 - Friday, October 10, 2014 - link

    Talking CPUs now :)
    You're right, Phenom II had better IPC on old code (up to SSE3) than even Bulldozer v2 aka Piledriver, not even mentioning original (2011) Bulldozer v1.
    More than that, even Phenom I (on 65 nm) had better IPC on old code than all Bulldozer/Piledriver stuff...

    I owned and benched both Phenom I and Phenom II in 2008-2009, so, looking at the Bulldozer fiasco, I decided to switch to Intel CPUs. That's what I did last year (shiny new Haswell build, now Devil's Canyon i7 - it really rocks leaps and bounds around any AMD, of course).

    BTW, digging a bit into the recent history, Meyer was fired in the beginning of 2011 - right after SB release. So I still have an assumption that letting him go had to do something (at least partially) with the release of Sandy Bridge on LGA1155 at the moment. When Gesher was released to public and was celebrated everywhere (because SB ROCKED at the time, and is still good even now), I guess, Bulldozer was already around the ES stage, and AMD internally was already aware of its (poor) performance. So, after SB release, AMD board of directors may realised, that BD will inevitably fail in comparison, and fired Meyer immediately, because, being a CPU engineer and CEO, he was responsible for this situation.
    But, of course, this may be just a "conspiracy theory" around that 2011 events.
  • Myrandex - Wednesday, October 15, 2014 - link

    Hah on my gaming machine I'm still rocking a Phenom II x6 CPU. I'm in the same boat too though, I would like to purchase AMD but their products have been sub par. I built a desktop with a GCN integrated CPU for the family, but my new laptop and convertible purchased have been Intel powered. Hopefully they release something substantial!
  • Mark_gb - Friday, October 10, 2014 - link

    Rory knew from almost day 1, if not sooner that AMD was a stabilization project for him. He also knew that one AMD was stabilized, that his job there would be over. He came in, worked with the engineers to find new bisunesses for AMD, and worked one getting AMD financially on a stable track. While AMD is not yet profitable, they are expected to be within 1 year, and for AMD that will be a major milestone. The company has always been either racking in the profits (for a couple years here and there), or losing money by the trainloads. AMD has managed to be cash stable now for over a year, with roughly $1 billion in the bank during that time.

    So Rory did a great job. He stabilized the company financially, brought back old AMD engineers that had vision in the past for AMD, and brought in new people, including Lisa Su, nearly all of who are renowned engineers, to lead the company.

    Rory did his job, and it appears that he did it very well. And he knew that his job was finished. Now it is up to Lisa Su to continue what he started and expand greatly on it, while maintaining the financial stability that Rory has worked so hard to stabilize.

    I believe that 5 years from now, we will all look back and see the fruits of Rory and Lisa's hard work in the past 3 years. I believe that we will see a profitable AMD that it putting out new products in new markets and which may even be pushing Intel to innovate again. Hopefully AMD surprises us with a few things, and starts making lots and lots of money.
  • TiGr1982 - Friday, October 10, 2014 - link

    Even supporting AMD as their HW customer for around 10 years till present,
    I would say you are probably overly optimistic...
    Time will tell, however, how things will develop in the future.

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