Intel is replacing its chief executive Bob Swan after a series of manufacturing setbacks and competitive blunders that lost the veteran Silicon Valley company its crown as the top US chipmaker.
Mr Swan, its former finance chief who held the top job for just over two years, will be succeeded on February 15 by former Intel veteran Pat Gelsinger, who is currently chief executive of VMware, the infrastructure software group.
The company made the move just days before Mr Swan was expected to unveil Intel’s new manufacturing strategy, together with the company’s latest earnings.
Last July, Intel was overtaken by Nvidia as the most valuable chip company in the US after it delayed its next generation of chips because of manufacturing problems. Since then, Mr Swan has been under pressure to decide whether Intel would invest further in chipmaking to compete with its rivals TSMC and Samsung, or start to outsource more production to them.
Shares in Intel opened more than 12 per cent up at $59.51, handing a rapid return to activist investor Third Point, which took a stake last month and publicly agitated for change, when Intel shares were trading below $50.
“Swan is a class act and did the right thing for all stakeholders stepping aside for Gelsinger,” said Third Point founder Dan Loeb in a Twitter message after the news was first reported by CNBC.
Mr Gelsinger had previously spent 30 years at Intel, including as its chief technology officer, before he left just over a decade ago to join VMware’s former parent company EMC.
“Pat is a proven technology leader with a distinguished record of innovation, talent development, and a deep knowledge of Intel. He will continue a values-based cultural leadership approach with a hyper focus on operational execution,” said Omar Ishrak, independent chairman of the Intel board.
“I am thrilled to rejoin and lead Intel forward at this important time for the company, our industry and our nation,” said Mr Gelsinger.
Intel had about $60bn wiped off its market capitalisation in 2020. The biggest shock came in July, when its shares fell 17 per cent in a day after it revealed it was 12 months behind schedule in developing the new process technology needed to manufacture its latest generation of chips.
Mr Swan, a former eBay executive, was promoted in January 2019, following the resignation of Brian Krzanich, who failed to disclose an affair with another employee.
Mr Swan had pledged to make data, rather than personal computers, Intel’s strategic focus, as the tech industry’s growth engine shifted to cloud computing. Mr Ishrak said on Wednesday that Mr Swan had made “significant contributions through this period of transformation for Intel”.
However, Apple’s announcement in mid-2020 that it would be shifting its Macs away from Intel to an Arm-based processor of its own design showed that Intel still faced vigorous competition.
Nvidia’s $40bn planned acquisition of Arm, the UK chip company whose designs power the vast majority of mobile devices, will only add to the pressure on Intel.