There's something fishy going on at Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD ) .
Dirk Meyer, who chaperoned the company out of the dark ages and nursed it back to health, is no longer CEO. CFO Tom Seifert is the interim CEO, with no interest in a permanent title change. Nobody saw this change coming, and AMD is trying to assure us that everything is all right because its fourth-quarter sales were stronger than expected.
Nothing to see here, folks -- move along!
I'm not reassured at all, and I'm not alone. The stock fell hard on the news.
Meyer was a fine leader and a proven winner with an appropriately technical background, and he will be hard to replace. There's no separation agreement and no long goodbye, just a quick exit. AMD is not keeping Meyer around, or perhaps it's his choice not to stick around. That's a hot issue among AMD analysts today, because it makes no sense to boot out a proven CEO without a replacement plan. On the other hand, why would Meyer choose to leave the company he helped construct in a manner that might permanently damage his creation?
Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) and NVIDIA (Nasdaq: NVDA ) now have an unexpected window of opportunity to outwit a rudderless AMD. At the turn of the year, I thought AMD looked poised to capitalize on the many victories Meyer rowed home, including the Fusion launch, the successful separation of design church and manufacturing state, and the legal settlements from Intel that swiftly rebuilt a war-torn balance sheet. Now, less than two weeks later, I'm not so sure.
AMD reports earnings in another two weeks, and the company had better have a sensational CEO with a solid execution plan by then. Otherwise, the conference call will be a verbal bloodbath, and the stock will suffer again. Yesterday, I would have told you to buy on nearly any dip, but the stock is now cheap because it deserves to be.
The board and Meyer himself have a lot of questions to answer before any of them can be trusted again. I haven't seen an exit this ugly since Hewlett-Packard unceremoniously dispatched Mark Hurd last summer.
Will AMD find a suitable successor to Meyer, or did the company just miss out on a golden age? Add AMD to your watchlist, then discuss in the comments below.