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8/23/2007
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AMD Scrambles To Replace Henri Richard

CEO Hector Ruiz must now find a replacement for his sales and marketing lead as the company tries to turn around its struggling sales.

The sudden departure of Henri Richard leaves Advanced Micro Devices without a sales and marketing chief as the struggling company prepares for one of its most important product launches in more than two years.

Richard on Wednesday said in a company statement that he was leaving in September to a "different business segment," but did not disclose any details. The company said Richard's departure was on "completely amicable terms," and the decision was his own.

Nevertheless, Richard's decision appeared to have taken the company by surprise, given that there was no replacement. The global sales and marketing organization will report to the office of the chief executive, made up of chairman and chief executive Hector Ruiz, and president and chief operating officer Dirk Meyer, AMD said.

AMD spokesman Eric Deritis acknowledged Thursday that Richard's leaving could be perceived as unexpected. The company had known about the top executive's decision, but was forced to make the announcement sooner than planned after a technology Web site reported Wednesday that Richard was leaving.

"If that leak hadn't occurred, then [the announcement] would have been more of a buttoned-down process," he said. There's no firm departure date for next month, so Richard will be around to help with the transition.

While the company hopes to fill the post as soon as possible, Richard's sales and marketing group is strong enough to stand on its own until the right person is found, Deritis said. "There's no feeling that we have to do this as soon as possible to fill a gap."

Steve Kleynhans, analyst for Gartner, said he was skeptical of the company's claim that Richard was leaving on amicable terms. "That would sound more reasonable, if they had someone waiting in the wings to take his place," Kleynhans said. "There doesn't seem to be any obvious replacement at this point, and it makes you wonder what triggered the move."

Being in charge of sales for a company that lost nearly $1.8 billion in the last three quarters and saw its 2006 market gains against rival Intel slip away must have been difficult, Kleynhans said. "It can't be fun at the moment being head of sales at AMD."

Richard said he was ready to leave the industry entirely. "After 20 years in the PC industry -- and five of the most professionally rewarding years here at AMD -- I have decided to make a move to a different business segment," he said..

Gordon Haff, analyst for Illuminata, said no company wants to lose a top executive at such a critical time. However, AMD is more about technology, and less about marketing, so he expected the company to remain focused on the launch of its first quad-core server processor, codenamed Barcelona. "You never like losing a top executive that you don't want to leave, but I don't have any particular reason to believe that this will have some huge negative impact on AMD," he said.

Barcelona, which is a quad-core server processor, is expected to be released in September, is arguably AMD's most important processor in more than two years, when the company launched the first dual-core versions of the 64-bit Opteron server processor. AMD also plans to release this year a quad-core desktop processor, codenamed Phenom. Intel has been shipping quad-core products for a year.

Despite the company's recent losses, AMD has said it has no intention of making major cuts in operations, and expects to break even by the fourth quarter. In July, the company rolled out its plans for microprocessors that meet the needs of hardware ranging from servers and high-performance computers to mobile phones and consumer electronics.

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