The silver lining in the Intel CEO drama


I assume that by now you’ve heard the news that Intel CEO Brian Krzanich has stepped down for reportedly violating the company’s strict policy against having relationships with employees. As CFO Bob Swan takes the reigns, the question of who will replace Krzanich is front and center.

Several analysts I’ve spoken to even before this happened said they think Intel needs to look to the outside for its next CEO. In its 50-year history, the company has had only six CEOs, all of them insiders. Intel has a reputation as a tough place to work; nobody treads water at Intel. In the volatile Silicon Valley, I found Intel was a place where people either came and went fast or hung around forever. If you are cut out for its culture, expect to be promoted up the food chain rather quickly.

That has changed recently. Under Krzanich, there has been an exodus of homegrown talent — Stacy Smith, Diane Bryant, Renee James, Kim Stevenson, Kirk Skaugen, and Doug Davis — but an influx of outsiders, such as Murthy Renduchintala from Qualcomm, Raja Koduri from AMD, and Jim Keller from you name it.

Of the departed executives, Bryant and Skaugen were the two most likely replacements for Krzanich. Bryant is now making Google’s Cloud business viable after years of spinning its wheels, while Skaugen is trying to turn the ship of Lenovo’s data center business around.

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