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GlobalFoundries shuffles top brass

Hey, AMD. Want some sloppy seconds?

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Advanced Technology Investment Company – the moneybags of the Abu Dhabi government that bought foundries from Advanced Micro Devices in 2008 to become a player in chip manufacturing – is shuffling its top brass as it prepares to pump more money in the business and knock its foundries into shape.

The executive changes at ATIC come as partner AMD is struggling to find a new CEO – and present an interesting possibility for Intel's archrival in desktop and server processors.

Doug Grose, who has served as CEO since GlobalFoundries was formed, is stepping down but is remaining on board at the chip maker as a technical advisor. According to a statement release by GlobalFoundries, Grose will have "a focus on technology leadership and ensuring delivery of next generation technologies for competitive differentiation," which sounds a bit vague.

Grose came to GlobalFoundries through the $2.1bn acquisition of AMD's Dresden fabs in October 2008. Grose joined AMD in 2007 and was senior vice president of technology development, manufacturing, and supply chain. Prior to that he did a 25-year stint at IBM, rising to the position of general manager of technology development and manufacturing for Big Blue's Systems and Technology Group. He also did a stint as general manager of IBM's storage division, too.

Doug Grose

Doug Grose

And, if no one else wants the job, Grose might make a good candidate for the CEO position at AMD, which has been headless since the company asked CEO Dirk Meyer to step down in January. AMD did not explain why Meyer was let go, but the speculation is that AMD's loss of share in the server chip business and AMD's non-start in smartphone and tablets was the cause.

Another potential AMD CEO is Chia Song Hwee, who has been chief operating officer at GlobalFoundries and who will be stepping down in August and returning to an unspecified position in the wafer baker's Singapore operations.

Chia joined GlobalFoundries in September 2009 when ATIC shelled out $3.9bn to acquire Singapore-based chip giant Chartered Semiconductor, and in a pinch, he could also do the CEO job at AMD. Chia was a bean counter at services giant Schlumberger and joined Chartered in 1996, rising through the ranks to become CFO and then, in 2002, CEO.

Grose and Chia were asked to step aside at GlobalFoundries because its customers – and that means mostly AMD at this point – want more capacity and faster ramping of new wafer-baking technologies. It is interesting to contemplate if the executive changes at GlobalFoundries mean there has been some slippage with 32 nanometer processes.

AMD said in a statement that it was "pleased to see them taking steps to become more agile". If there has been slippage, it is hard to imagine that Grose or Chia would be offered the CEO job at AMD; but they might be better suited to steering a chip design and marketing company than they were a fab.

Chia Song Hwee

Chia Song Hwee

Thomas Siefert, who has been interim CEO at AMD since Meyer's departure, has made it clear that he does not want the job and has also renegotiated its chip fabbing commitments with GlobalFoundries to properly motivate the foundry to get its 32 nanometer act together. AMD's future in servers and on most desktops is still tied to GlobalFoundries, although the company has tapped Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp, the long-time fab partner for ATI's and now AMD's GPUs, for some of its Fusion CPU-GPU hybrid processors. So at least not all of the AMD chips are in the same basket these days.

What no one seems to want is Siefert's job as CEO. A report in Bloomberg indicates that Mark Hurd, former Hewlett-Packard chairman and CEO and current Oracle co-president, has been approached to take the CEO job at AMD and has declined.

Tim Cook, COO at Apple has also demurred, as has Pat Gelsinger, former general manager of Intel's Data Center Group and now a COO at EMC. Greg Summe, a managing director at private equity firm Carlyle Group and formerly the chairman and CEO at defense contractor PerkinElmer and previously a top exec at Honeywell and General Electric.

Back over at GlobalFoundries, the wafer baker says that it has named Ajit Manocha, an advisor to ATIC who used to run the chip operations of Spansion, as interim CEO. James Norling, who was chairman of the Chartered board and who spent 25 years at Motorola, has been tapped as executive chairman of the ATIC board while Ibrahim Ajami, who has been in charge of acquisitions for the Emirates of Abu Dhabi, is now vice chairman at ATIC.

ATIC has spent over $6bn on acquisitions as well as improvements in its Dresden and Singapore fabs and the construction of a high-tech fab in upstate New York, and in its statement announcing the executive changes, ATIC said it has another $6bn it wants to blow by the end of 2012 on expanding its fabs in Dreden, Singapore, and New York as well as starting construction of its first fab back in Abu Dhabi.

Money is not the problem, thanks to oil revenues, but yields on 32 nanometer processes at GlobalFoundries' fabs have been. And an even larger problem is that GlobalFoundries has to catch up to Intel, which is on a feverish and relentless pace to 14 nanometers in the next three years. Which just goes to show you that outsourcing your problems does not always solve them. ®

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