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Ruiz out at AMD, Dirk Meyer new CEO

Hector Ruiz steps down from the top role at AMD despite pledging to stay on through 2008, as the company's financial performance apparently became impossible to ignore.

This post was updated at around 2:45 and 3:40 p.m. PDT with additional information from the earnings conference call.
Hector Ruiz
Hector Ruiz AMD

Advanced Micro Devices CEO Hector Ruiz is stepping down from the helm of the troubled chip company, and Dirk Meyer is taking over.

Ruiz announced the leadership change Thursday during AMD's second-quarter financial earnings conference call. He will remain as executive chairman, but Meyer will immediately take over as the sole executive leader of AMD. "The time is right to turn the company over to a new leader."

Ruiz announced last year that Meyer was the designated successor to the CEO position, but he also said that he planned to stay on the job through 2008. Amid continued heavy losses, however, it seems the situation was too much for the company's board of directors to bear.

Ruiz praised Meyer as he introduced AMD's third-ever CEO.

"He is a talented business executive who is known to make decisions quickly and just as quickly turn those decisions into action. In short, he is the right leader at the right time for this company," Ruiz said, in announcing his own departure from the executive chair.

Dirk Meyer
Dirk Meyer AMD

Ruiz replaced legendary founder Jerry Sanders as AMD's CEO in 2002, after joining the company in 2000 as president and chief operating officer from Motorola. His tenure was a whirlwind that saw AMD leap from an afterthought among the world's top PC companies to a top player in the chip business on the strength of its Opteron processor, only to slide underwater once again after botching the introduction of a quad-core processor.

Meyer's engineering talents are unquestioned within the chip industry, having presided over several very important processor designs during the last 20 years.

"Dirk is an experienced and prolific engineer with over 40 patents and many chip designs to his name including the ground-breaking DEC Alpha processor," Ruiz said. "He led the design of our industry-transforming AMD64 architecture--and then took the reins of what was then the Computation Products business--doubling its revenue, expanding its customer base, partner and R&D footprint, and changing the face of the microprocessor industry as we know it."

Ruiz's new role as executive chairman will find him overseeing AMD's "asset-smart" transition, which has taken forever to unfold. Ruiz first broached an "asset-light" idea in the first quarter of 2007, but the company has said absolutely nothing about its possible plans to do less chip manufacturing in-house and more work with third-party foundries. The company hopes to have more to say about that plan this year.

He will also likely remain the face of AMD's antitrust battle against Intel in both the U.S. and abroad. AMD filed suit against Intel in 2006 charging that the world's largest chipmaker has used a pattern of selective rebates and intimidation to coerce PC and server vendors into limiting their use of AMD's chips, charges that Intel has denied.

AMD will focus on recapturing market share and product leadership in high-volume categories such as PCs and servers with one or two processors under Meyer's reign, he said. Meyer faces significant challenges in getting AMD back on track financially as it tries to regain the upper hand against a much more wary Intel, which has adjusted its product strategy to make more frequent changes to its chips in order to prevent AMD from catching it napping again.