Intel surprise: Yet another CEO change at a valley giant

Intel made a surprise announcement this morning: CEO Paul Otellini will be stepping down in May, and the company is starting a search both inside and outside the company for a successor.

As the Merc’s Steve Johnson points out, the Santa Clara chip maker’s previous CEOs have retired at the age of 65, so Otellini is leaving three years earlier than expected.

“It’s time to move on and transfer Intel’s helm to a new generation of leadership,” Otellini, who has been with Intel for almost 40 years and chief executive for the past eight years, said in a statement this morning.

The change at the top comes at a key time for Intel, which dominates the PC chip industry but is playing catch-up amid the rise of smartphones and other mobile devices — many of which have rival ARM’s chips inside — in what’s increasingly being called the post-PC world. The company says Otellini’s departure was his decision, with a spokesman reportedly saying the board accepted the decision “with regret.” But recent remarks by Otellini suggest he was both irritated by what has been deemed the smartphone revolution, and perhaps not fully aboard the post-PC train. (See Quoted: Intel’s Otellini on tech evolution, not revolution.)

In addition, Intel’s rise was in large part due to its longtime exclusive partnership with Microsoft. But Microsoft’s new, post-PC-era push doesn’t run exclusively on Intel, it also runs on ARM.

Otellini’s departure comes as the rise of both mobile devices and social networking have caused management shuffling or upheaval among Silicon Valley’s biggest tech companies. Hewlett-Packard, Google and Yahoo have all changed CEOs in the past couple of years. Only Apple’s change at the top last year had a different cause; Tim Cook became CEO after Steve Jobs resigned a couple of months before he died.

Intel shares are down slightly, less than 0.5 percent to $20.12, despite some analysts’ optimism that Otellini’s exit will be a chance for Intel to “do a reboot.”





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