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Troubled 3Dfx names new CEO

Struggling graphics chipmaker 3Dfx appoints board member and semiconductor veteran Alex Leupp as the company's new chief executive.

Struggling graphics chipmaker 3Dfx today announced that board member and semiconductor veteran Alex Leupp will become the company's new chief executive.

The appointment of Leupp, 59, comes at a time of wrenching change for the graphics chipmaker. Once one of the performance leaders in 3D graphics chips, the company has seen its market share and performance edge sag in the past 18 months because of competition and product delays.

In October, former CEO Greg Ballard abruptly resigned. The company's stock has essentially stayed level today at just below $9.

If anything, Leupp could bring a greater degree of practical operations skill to the company, said Peter Glaskowsky, graphics analyst with MicroDesign Resources.

"Other chip companies deliver chips more rapidly," he said. "Innovation is important, but there is no point to it if you can't get chips out."

Most recently, Leupp was president and CEO of Chip Express, a custom chip designer. Prior to that, he spent 12 years with Siemens Microelectronics, where he served as CEO for six years.

Earlier, Leupp held executive management positions at Fairchild Semiconductor, Hughes Aircraft and California Devices. He holds several patents on semiconductor design and fabrication.

"Dr. Leupp has been a valuable resource in guiding 3Dfx over the past year, as a director on the company's board," Gordon Campbell, chairman of the board of directors of 3Dfx, said in a statement.

The recent history of 3Dfx in many ways reflects the roller coaster nature of the graphics chip industry. In 1997, 3Dfx was on the top of the performance pile with its Voodoo 2 chip, which enjoyed a cult following among PC game enthusiasts.

Although popular, the Voodoo 2 was also expensive and largely had to be bought separately as an add-on product by consumers. To boost sales, 3Dfx tried to enter the market for lower-cost 3D processors that get inserted into machines by computer manufacturers. The company's success in this endeavor, however, was uneven. Simultaneously, other companies brought out graphics chips with superior performance. ATI Technologies is now the leader in that market.

In August, the company reported losses of $11.5 million for the quarter that ended in July, which sent its stock tumbling. The year before, the company posted a $9 million profit for the same period.