Cypress Semiconductor icon T.J. Rodgers steps down as CEO

Call it the changing of the guard. Call it an end of an era. Call it retirement, if you want. One of the last of the Old Guard tech pioneers is moving on.

T.J. Rodgers, founder and chief executive of Cypress Semiconductor, said Thursday he is giving up the reins of the company he has led since 1982. Rodgers said in a statement that while he is “still passionately interested” in Cypress’ bread-and-butter silicon-based chip products, at 68 years old, it is time to step back from the day-to-day stress of running the semiconductor maker.

“I have always planned not to be spending most of my time in the last decade of my career immersed in the details of the operations, including those of the 7,000-person company that Cypress has become,” Rodgers said. “And, to be completely candid, the board and even the executive staff have urged me to bring new blood into operations.”

Cypress said Rodgers will give up his CEO position this week, but will remain on the company’s board of directors. Apparently, Rodgers won’t be completely gone from Cypress’ San Jose headquarters, as the company said he would become “a project leader working on key technical projects.”

Betsy Van Hees, an analyst who covers Cypress for Wedbush Securities, called Rodgers “one of the tremendous figures in the valley” who has been “an iconic force in the semiconductor industry.”

Cypress will be run by a four-person CEO office as the company searches for a full-time chief executive. That office will include Hassane El-Khoury, Cypress’ executive vice president of programmable systems; Dana Nazarian, memory products division executive vice president; Joe Rauschmayer, executive vice president of manufacturing; and Chief Financial Officer Thad Trent.

Cypress may not get the kind of attention as other Silicon Valley giants like Apple, Intel and Google, but the company has played an important role in the growth of the area’s tech industries over nearly four decades.

The company’s roots are in the VMOS transistor technology that Rodgers invented while a student at Stanford University in the 1970s. VMOS allowed for better power usage in electronic devices.

In addition to his knowledge of, and work in the semiconductor industry, Rodgers has a reputation for blunt talk and speaking candidly on just about any issue that crosses his mind.

In 1999, for instance, Rodgers wrote an op-ed piece for the Mercury News in which he criticized the Rev. Jesse Jackson after comments Jackson made during a visit to Silicon Valley about prejudice in the hiring of minority professionals in the tech sector. Rodgers noted that, at the time, minorities made up 35 percent of Cypress’ employees, all of whom were company shareholders, and that four of the company’s nine executive vice presidents were minorities.

“We hire 500 people per year and still never fully meet our needs — just like most other Silicon Valley companies,” Rodgers wrote. “Why would my company hire 35 percent minority employees and then refuse to fill an additional 115 positions with minorities? Prejudice? Hardly.”

Rodgers’ retirement as CEO came at the same time Cypress released its first-quarter results. The company reported a loss of 32 cents a share, on $419 million in revenue. Excluding one-time items, Cypress earned 7 cents a share. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had forecast Cypress to earn 6 cents a share on sales of $425 million.

As if its CEO stepping down and delivering its quarterly report weren’t enough for one day, Cypress also said it would acquire Broadcom’s wireless Internet of Things (IoT) business for $550 million.

The all-cash deal includes Broadcom’s Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Zigbee IoT product lines, and 430 Broadcom employees. The deal is expected to improve Cypress’ position in the market for low-power programmable chips used in home automation, wearables and other consumer and business products.

Cypress shares are up about 2.5 percent to $9.28.


Photo:  Former Cypress CEO T.J. Rodgers (Nhat V. Meyer/Mercury News)


Tags: , , , ,


Share this Post