Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Intel's Quest For Leadership - Who Will Run The World's Largest Chip Company?

Posted by Tom Foremski - January 2, 2013

Sean Maloney (far right) with Paul Otellini, CEO, and Craig Barrett former CEO at Intel.

Intel will announce a new CEO later this year as Paul Otellini retires in May but who that person will be is not yet known. It would likely have been Sean Maloney, who retires this month, if it were not for a massive stroke in 2010.

The British executive spent 30 years at Intel, working closely with CEO Andrew Grove as his technical assistant, and then heading several business groups. Mr Maloney has a stellar reputation at Intel as being able to tackle some of the toughest problems around.

He also has a great reputation within Silicon Valley, and has been approached many times to lead other tech companies such as Hewlett-Packard.

Mr Otellini recently said that the next CEO will come from within Intel rather than from outside despite Intel's board saying that it would also consider outside candidates. Mr Otellini believes that an insider is needed to understand Intel's processes and culture, a task that could take "two years."

Mr Maloney's deep knowledge of nearly all aspects of Intel's business, plus his position as TA to the CEO - a key path that Mr Otellini followed -- would have made him the ideal replacement.

Who will Intel choose? It's unusual for Intel not to have its succession plans laid out clearly.

Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight64, points to two internal candidates:

Brian Krzanich, COO and head of worldwide manufacturing; and Stacy Smith, CFO and director of corporate strategy occupy the pole positions. Both saw "executive vice president" added to their titles in the same press release that announced Otellini's planned retirement.

Krzanich oversees Intel's vast network of multi-billion dollar fabs, and accounts for the vast majority of Intel's capital expenditures. Moreover, he was named Chief Operating Officer early this year...

Smith, who labored for years under Andy Bryant's considerable shadow, was named CFO in 2007 and has both a wide and deep understanding of how Intel functions.

While we wait for the decision by Intel's board of directors, here is an interview with Sean Maloney, retiring Chairman of Intel China, looking back at his remarkable career.

By Intel Free Press

"I joined Intel because of the microprocessor. I believed, like many people, that the microprocessor was going to change the world," said Sean Maloney, executive vice president and chairman of Intel China.

Sean Maloney is retiring in January after 30 years with Intel. During his career with the company, he has held numerous leadership roles, most recently as chairman of Intel China. When his retirement was announced in September, Intel President and CEO Paul Otellini said of him, "Sean is a well-known visionary for Intel and the computing industry. He leaves a major mark on Intel and the industry."

In 2010, Maloney suffered a massive stroke and took a medical leave. He faced an arduous path to regain speech and full physical activity.

Maloney had to learn to talk again from the other side of his brain, which he said is "by far the hardest thing that I have ever done."

An avid rower, he returned to his racing scull and competed in the Head of the Charles Regatta, a major rowing event in Boston, just 8 months after hearing a doctor say that he'd never row again.

Ten months after the stroke Maloney returned to work and within 6 months, in May 2011, was appointed chairman of Intel China. Today he is learning Mandarin.

From Beijing, Maloney recently spoke about his career with Intel, including why he took a pay cut to join Intel and his pursuit of the job as technical assistant to Andy Grove, then Intel chairman and CEO.

What brought you to Intel back in 1982?

I joined Intel because of the microprocessor. I believed, like many people, that the microprocessor was going to change the world. But that wasn't really the case in 1982. Mainframes were "it."

I used to go up to Scotland, to IBM Scotland. And it was a mainframe city. But I knew that Intel was going to come into the picture. Most of our revenue was memory. The 386 hadn't been invented yet. There were no personal computers anywhere.

So I came to Intel for a pay cut. I was in software, and deliberately came to Intel because I believed the microprocessor was "it."


From 1992 to 1995, you served as technical assistant to Andy Grove, Intel's chairman and CEO. How did you come to be Grove's TA?

Andy Grove came over to London two or three times in the early part of the '80s. I took him to meet with the CEO of Amstrad. Over about 2 years, I got to know him very well. The job opened up as Andy's TA, so I came over to Santa Clara and I saw the Intel building. And geez, it was huge. I couldn't believe it. I was really in his face. I was dying to be his TA. I called him up at least three times. "Do I have the job? Do I have the job?"

What did you admire most about Grove?

He was the first boss I had who totally knew what he was doing. He knew the right thing for Intel. Some days, he would really piss me off because, he would say to me, "It's not good enough. It's not good enough." And then, late at night, he would call me at home and he'd say, "I know I went too far." That's amazing. No other person I know would do that in the 1990s. I hope I've got a little bit of him.

What bit would you want to have?

Always question the obvious. When everyone is thinking one way, it's another way. I remember in meetings, Andy would say something which all of us thought was complete garbage. And after about an hour, we thought, you know, maybe it isn't complete garbage. Then, after another hour we thought, that's it! It was Andy. He was incredible. He kept the pace red hot. He's very kind as well. He didn't come across as being kind at work, but he was really kind.

Looking back, what are you most proud of?

Working hard in Intel teams with people who made a difference. Looking back, people forget we "built" the Web. I started out as a field applications engineer with responsibility for LAN technology. We created the first LAN networks. Later on, we built Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi didn't exist! Zero units in Wi-Fi to billions of units. That's Intel.


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