What's happening with the Intel executive turnover?

Times are changing at the chip giant and that's making things uncomfortable for some people.

As a company, Intel has been as notoriously stable as its chips. You didn't hear about much turnover there. Many staff, especially executives, followed in the career path of former CEO Paul Otellini – join the company right out of school and retire from it decades later. That's because Intel was good about promoting people, and they didn't have to jump around the Silicon Valley to get a promotion or a raise.

That, however, is changing, as one of the most insular company's in the Valley is seeing some real turnover in its executive suite. The latest shakeup involves the departures of Kirk Skaugen, the head of the Client Computing Group, and Doug Davis, who ran the IoT group. Skaugen is leaving to pursue other opportunities, while Davis is retiring

That in and of itself is telling. They are leaving with no place to land, meaning they weren't lured away. They just wanted out.

Skaugen is a particularly painful loss. He was the one who turned the Data Center business into the winner and money maker it has become. But I can also see why he left. He was put in charge of the Client group following the departure of David "Dadi" Perlmutter, who left following the appointment of Brian Krzanich as CEO in 2012.

However, Skaugen and Davis both saw their roles diminished after the appointment of former Qualcomm executive Venkata "Murthy" Renduchintala as president of Intel's Client and IoT businesses and its Systems Architecture Group, reporting to Krzanich.

These departures come on the heels of Renee James, president of the company and head of its software group last June, followed by Bill Holt, head of manufacturing, in February, and Aicha Evans, head of the mobile group (formerly Infineon) last week.

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In Holt's case, it was retirement. After 42 years, the 63 year old had earned his gold watch. But in the other cases, they are leaving for new opportunities and that's a bit of a shift from Intel of old. So is the appointment of Murthy. The Intel of the past did not hire a No.2 person from the outside, least of all a dire competitor/enemy.

That's what chip market watcher Jim McGregor of Tirias Research thinks is behind the changes. "Some of these execs have been looking for some time because they know they don’t have further advancement at Intel," he said. "The new guy from Qualcomm may have put pressure to make changes. Intel's priorities are changing, like what markets they go after. That will play into it."

One thing Intel has to do is rightsize the company and scale down the groups that are not a priority and focus on the groups that are. Qualcomm has been doing this for the last two years, and it's had some executive turnover as well.

In the case of Evans, Intel's IoT growth is a lot slower than its competitors, so a change may have been needed. It's gone through many divestitures and has been in constant change, said McGregor. And Intel's mobile business just isn't happening. When was the last time you heard Intel even talk about Atom? And all those rumors of Apple picking the Infineon modem for the iPhone didn't pan out.

So, we'll likely see a reorganization of the company soon, and probably a few more vice presidents bailing out.

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