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Motorola chooses IBM veteran to run chip division

Michel Mayer, a 20-year veteran of Big Blue, becomes the new chairman and CEO of Motorola's Freescale Semiconductor division, which is scheduled to be spun off as a separate company.

Motorola has appointed a former IBM executive to run its Freescale Semiconductor division, which is scheduled to be spun off as a separate company.

Motorola said on Monday that Michel Mayer would become chair and CEO of Freescale, effective immediately.

Mayer, who left Big Blue late last year, after working there for nearly 20 years, was most recently the general manager of IBM Microelectronics, the company's chip operation. IBM Microelectronics is now part of IBM's Systems and Technology group.

"After an extensive global search, we believe that Michel Mayer has a unique combination of operational experience, leadership skills, customer focus and technical expertise to make him the ideal choice to lead Freescale Semiconductor as an independent entity," Ed Zander, chairman and chief executive officer of Motorola, said in a statement.

It's common for chipmakers to choose executives from within the industry, as those people are most familiar with the nuances of the often up-and-down semiconductor business. Advanced Micro Devices, in just one example, hired Hector Ruiz, who ran Motorola's semiconductor division, away from Motorola in January 2000. Ruiz became AMD's CEO in April 2002 and added the role of chair in April of this year.

Mayer's appointment comes at a particularly important time for Freescale, which Motorola plans to spin off as a publicly traded company later this year.

As a separate company, Freescale will focus on designing and manufacturing chips, while Motorola will continue building products and providing software and services for markets such as cellular phones and networking.

"I am honored to be named Freescale's chairman and chief executive officer," Mayer said in a statement.

Freescale, which is based in Austin, Texas, operates in more than 25 countries. Its 2003 sales totaled $4.9 billion.