The Tom's Hardware Intel CEO Draft: Who Should Lead Team Blue?

Credit: Sundry Photography / Shutterstock.comCredit: Sundry Photography /

It's been almost seven months since former Intel CEO Brian Krzanich resigned from the company, acknowledging a relationship with an employee and leaving the company without a chief executive. Chief financial officer Bob Swan is temporarily holding the post, but has been vocal about not wanting the job full-time.

Intel is reportedly looking to fill the post soon, hopefully ahead of its Jan. 24 earnings call. So some of the Tom's Hardware staff got in Slack to hold the first ever CEO draft. It was a two-round snake draft, so each participant got two picks. It was taken seriously. Mostly. Here's what went down. This chat has been slightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Andrew E. Freedman: Good morning all, and welcome to the Tom's Hardware Intel CEO draft! Intel is rumored to be announcing a CEO ahead of its next earnings report, on Jan. 24. Let's pick who it should be.

To start, I'll enter all participant names in alphabetical order (by last name) into an online randomizer. That will produce our pick order. We'll do a two-round snake draft, giving everyone a top pick and a backup pick. Then we'll vote on who has the best options.

Your picks should be based on two criteria:

  1. Who you think Intel may pick.
  2. Whether that would be a good pick for Intel.

Please briefly explain your picks.

Now... let's start the randomizer!

The order is:

  • Zak Storey
  • Scharon Harding
  • Paul Alcorn
  • Andrew E. Freedman
  • Avram Piltch
  • Matt Safford

Round One

Andrew: So Zak, whenever you're ready, give us draft pick number one for Intel CEO.

Zak Storey: Well then, my pick is Jim Anderson, current CEO and president of Lattice Semiconductor, ex General Manager and Senior VP of Computing and Graphics business group at AMD during the Ryzen uprising, and ex Intel employee from 97-05, also selling Axxia business to Intel back in 2014 for $650 million.

Credit: Jim Anderson / LinkedInCredit: Jim Anderson / LinkedIn

The rumors of Intel poaching Lisa Su, although a good fit, don’t sit well in my gut. I’m convinced she’s more committed to AMD beyond being there just for the pay. Bringing AMD back from the brink under her leadership shows exceptional talent and commitment to the company. Jim on the other hand has extensive experience at AMD during that Ryzen uptick, and currently works for a smaller semiconductor company, along with that extensive experience with Intel in the past, it makes him a very attractive solution to Intel’s problem. Would it be a good pick for the business model? I’m not entirely certain, but I’ve no doubt his open and honest managing style would be good for the consumer, and help to bring a bit of transparency back to the company.

Cristinao Amon. Credit: QualcommCristinao Amon. Credit: Qualcomm

Scharon Harding: I'm going to go with Cristiano Amon, president of Qualcomm. Amon has been rumored to be on the shortlist for Intel's next CEO, and I think he has a good chance. The exec has been at Qualcomm since 1995 and has worked with Intel's current chief engineering officer, Murthy Renduchintala, when he was at Qualcomm. Amon was also previously co-president and SVP of QCT, in charge of wireless chips and has worked at various mobile companies, like Ericsson. With a strong background in chips, mobility and engineering and ties to a high-level Intel exec, he's a good contender.

Andrew: For those not in our Slack channel, Matt just gave that a little thumbs-up emoji. I think he suggests that's a good pick. I see Paul Alcorn is shaking in his boots with the third pick.

Paul Alcorn: Dr. Murthy Renduchintala hails from Qualcomm, where he was the head of the company’s chip development programs. Renduchintala joined Intel in 2015, and as the group president of the Technology, Systems Architecture & Client Group and chief engineering officer, is now in charge of Intel Labs, the Manufacturing Group, Systems Architecture as well as the Client and Connectivity businesses.

Renduchintala served as the key recruiter for Raja Koduri and Jim Keller, and then oversaw the shaping of Intel’s new cohesive vision that spans all facets of its operations. Together with the company's leadership, the three identified six key building blocks that the company would focus on over the coming years.

Credit: IntelCredit: Intel

Intel has traditionally promoted from within, and Renduchintala's success with the company, combined with his outsiders’ perspective, makes him a natural fit for the role. His deep interaction on plotting the new course forward assures solid execution of the company’s goals, and his educational background (bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering) is a good fit for Intel’s tech-centric culture.

Scharon: I think Zak's pick for Anderson is a good shot, especially considering the oh-so-desirable successful merger and acquisitions capabilities demonstrated by the Axxia sell he mentioned. He surely has plenty of Team Blue friends as well.

I think Paul has a point regarding appointing from within. But it's been so long since they've been CEO-less, and they've had such headaches with previous leadership that I think they may be eyeing a new strategy.

Andrew: This may be too newsy of a pick, but it makes a lot of sense: Johny Srouji, who is rumored as of this week to be on the shortlist. He's vice president of hardware technologies at Apple, where he's been since 2008 working on the A4, Apple's first system on a chip. The company's A-series processors in the iPhone and iPad are truly impressive, and there's rumors that his team may be able to bring about some Macs using Apple's own processors rather than Intel's. If Intel poached him, it could be a big win for them. He's the type of CEO who could likely help them out with their manufacturing issues and bring about some innovation. He may also be good for relations with vendors that use Intel's chips. Of course, he's likely being paid very handsomely at Apple, so... I could see him playing hard to get.

Johny Srouji. Credit: AppleJohny Srouji. Credit: Apple

But Srouji has a history at Intel. He worked at its Israeli design center for many years before jumping to IBM and then to Apple.

Paul: Andrew stole my second pick!

Avram Piltch: My pick is Renee James, CEO of Ampere Computing and former Intel president. Intel needs a new, enthusiastic face to bring positive attention to the company as well as someone who has a history of delivering results. That's James. I've read that she's out of the running, but if true, that's a mistake.

I covered Intel extensively when James was president there and her charisma and natural leadership ability was evident in every presentation she gave. While she was there, Intel had a lot of success maintaining pace with Moore's law as well. But in addition to a reputation for getting things done, James would bring some much needed swagger and showmanship to the role."

Renee James. Credit: AmpereRenee James. Credit: Ampere

Scharon: I like the idea of Intel gettin' its swagger back, that's for sure.

Andrew: Matt, you're up. And because you're the end of the first round and beginning of the second, you get two picks!

Matt Safford: I’m taking the cynical approach. Judging by what I've seen from past CEO performances, I think they'll hire some established high-level corporate exec who has little or no real tech background. Then within months they’ll make a big acquisition of a competitor that will generate lots of headlines, but in the long run will only create more problems for the company. Within a couple years, that "new" CEO will leave before any of the real problems get solved, trailing a golden parachute behind them.

Andrew: To be clear, your pick is "empty corporate suit."

Zak: Lol that’s beautiful.

Round Two

Sanjay Jha. Credit: SmartronSanjay Jha. Credit: Smartron

Matt: If I have to pick an actual person, I'll go with a candidate who I actually think would be a very good choice for Intel's future: Sanjay Jha. Until last March, he was head of Globalfoundries, so he has experience overseeing a massive fab.

Before that, Jha was co-CEO of Motorola, which would make him a good fit for Intel's aims to be a big part of the 5G landscape. And until 2008, he spent 14 years at Qualcomm, leaving as COO. This also fits well with Intel's continued mobile and low-power aims. With Jha at the helm, Jim Keller handling CPU architecture and Raja Koduri steering development of the company's much-hyped upcoming Xe graphics, Intel would have a proven trifecta of chip leadership it needs to turn back toward silicon innovation and leadership.

That said, $200 billion companies, much like luxury liners, take a long time to right their course. Even with Jha, I think AMD has at least a two-year window to continue to gain market share and innovate. When the blue team turns itself around, it's going to be facing stiffer competition than it has in decades.

Andrew: Good pick. (Stole my second choice!) And now we're onto Avram's.

Avram: Jonney Shih. More than anything, Intel needs a showman, someone to bring the brand positive attention. That person is Asus Chairman Jonney Shih, unarguably the greatest presenter in tech today!

It's hard to put into words the contagious enthusiasm that Shih brings to crowds at Asus events. You just have to see it for yourself. Shih could sell baking soda and make it sound exciting and innovative. He also has 40 years of tech industry experience. At Asus, he said he was in search of incredible. At Intel, he can say he found it.

Paul: I second the vote for Jonney Shih

Jonney Shih (Center)Jonney Shih (Center)

Andrew: Really?

Paul: His presentations are amazing, and just what Intel needs. More yelling! 10nm, isn't it incredible?!?!

Scharon: I've never seen this guy present before. This is amazing. I love him.

Paul: You have to experience it in person to truly appreciate it.

Matt: If it's Jonney, then he needs to wear the leather jacket to everything.

Scharon: He's like a superhero! Or Matrix person.

Matt: The shoulder chains really make that outfit.

Andrew: Well, it's back to me. I'm going with Diane Bryant.

Diane Bryant. Credit: IntelDiane Bryant. Credit: Intel

She was an early pick that seems to have fallen off the radar. She was president of Intel's data group and left under Brian Krzanich's reign. Before that she was Intel's chief information officer. She was integral to the company selling chips to corporate clients. She also spent some time on Google Cloud as COO, though she wasn't there very long.

She's on Broadcom's board these days, but I think if they could get her into Intel's corner office, she'd be a great face for the new Intel.

Scharon: Stole my pick! I knew you were going to. I almost said it earlier.

Andrew: I also like Bryant because while she spent a lot of time in Intel's culture, like most of its CEOs, she's seen some other experience.

Paul: I think she is a long shot, but not as long of a shot as Lisa Su.

Andrew: Well, Paul, who's a better pick? It's your choice now, after all.

Paul: Navin Shenoy, Intel’s current executive vice president and general manager of the Data Center Group, has piloted Intel’s data center group (DCG) to record revenues. Shenoy also served as the head of the company’s PC and tablet business units, meaning he has a deep understanding of Intel’s two key revenue-driving segments.

Navin Shenoy. Credit: IntelNavin Shenoy. Credit: Intel

Shenoy, along with Murthy Renduchintala, has been on several of Intel’s recent earnings calls, which is widely thought to imply that the two are front-runners for the CEO position. Shenoy represents a conservative and safe pick for Intel. His long tenure at the company, which began back in 1995, and good reputation among employees make him a solid internal candidate.

Andrew: Very good pick. I considered him. Intel likes people in it's ranks (see: every other CEO). I think his part of the CES press conference was an audition. The ball is now in Scharon's court.

Zak: Super happy with my second draft.

Andrew: You wait your turn, sir.

Zak: god dang it.

Scharon: This is a long shot and more of a “fantasy” pick. Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM. Intel and IBM have a lengthy relationship, including in key market areas, such as servers and the rapidly growing Internet of Things space. So Rometty should have a good understanding of Intel’s current strategy, as well as well as its hopes for the future.

Virginia 'Ginni\Virginia 'Ginni" Rometty. Credit: IBM

Rometty has taken bold steps to evolve IBM’s image and focus to center on promising and upcoming technologies, like data analytics, cloud and AI. Intel is in need of a shake-up both in strategy and image. They need someone who isn’t afraid of making tough decisions or taking risks to help make sure Intel stays relevant and can evolve with the times. Rometty is also a well-known face and a near household name and would garner Intel a lot of attention as it embarks on its next evolution. (edited)

Paul: I like Rometty, she is certainly a visionary. Good pick.

Andrew: I think she may be very hard to peel away, though.

Avram: That's a great pick!

Andrew: And last of the picks, before we review, is Zak.

Steve Ballmer. Credit: Ballmer GroupSteve Ballmer. Credit: Ballmer Group

Zak: I'm going to preface it with this.

If Intel’s in dire need of the theatrical I can’t think of a better second pick than Steve Ballmer, ex-CEO of Microsoft. Legendarily famous for his enthusiasm, and his overthetop press conference performances, having him come out of retirement and on board as Intel’s CEO would be nothing but entertaining as far as the press is concerned, and hopefully breathe a little bit of life into the stiflingly corporate face of Intel. The similarities between Intel and EA’s business practices would be long gone that’s for sure.

Would he be good for team blue’s long term business strategy? Well that depends on your point of view, like many others on this list he does have a long history in mobile, if he had the team and the technology surrounding him, there’s no doubt they could likely make something glorious out of it all.

Personally I just want to be at a press conference where he’s shouting 10nm and clapping repeatedly, over and over and over again.

Paul: Oh my.

Andrew: You and Avram, man, going with theatrics.

Avram: 10nm, 10nm, 10nm! Zak wins!

Andrew: Oh, he doesn't win yet...

Avram: Putting the Win in Wintel. Also, Steve Balmer would bring back the IDF [Intel Developer Forum] show, because he loves "developers, developers, developers".

Who Wins?

Andrew: Here's how we decide who wins:

Jim AndersonCristiano AmonDr. Venkata (Murthy) RenduchintalaJohny SroujiRenee JamesEmpty Corporate Suit
Steve BallmerGinni RomettyNavin ShenoyDiane BryantJonney ShihSanjay Jha

That's our pick table.

Who has the best pick and backup?

Avram: And I miss IDF

Andrew: My vote goes to Paul. If I could pick a second it would be Scharon. Paul's picks are safe, inside Intel (Intel inside?). Scharon's are great picks, but I don't see a chance.

Paul: I also like both Scharon and Andrew's picks, though the empty corporate suit entry from Matt is great. He may win on that alone. (edited)

Matt: Zak, I think before making this pick you should have messaged @Avram Piltch after his Jonney pick and said "hold my beer."

Andrew: I liked Zak's first pick but after he decided to one-up Avram's pick of Jonney Shih...

Zak: I’m down with Jonney for obvious reasons. But yeah genuinely I think Murthy’s going to nail it. That's a vote for Paul.

Avram: Scharon's picks are best for Intel probably.

Matt: I vote for Zak's Balmer pick. I just hope he doesn't have a heart attack on stage.

Andrew: Oy vey. Scharon? Paul?

Scharon: I vote for Paul. Wait I'm switching!

Andrew: DRAMA

Matt: Has Scharon been influenced by Russian bots?

Scharon: I'm voting for Avram. While one of his picks is a throwaway, I think Renee James is a good pick.

Andrew: Sucking up to the boss!

Scharon: Nah it's the bots.

Andrew: Paul, please for the love of god finish us off.

Paul: Andrew, on the strength of his first pick.

Scharon: Ugh no I'm back to Paul. I forgot Renee just started her own company. It's not a vote if there's no drama!!

Andrew: Here's the breakdown:

  • Andrew - Paul
  • Avram - Scharon
  • Matt - Zak
  • Zak - Paul
  • Paul - Andrew
  • Scharon - Paul


Matt: Like most of Intel's processors.

Andrew: Cold!

Avram: These takes are so hot, you won't be able to use the stock cooler.

Andrew: Congrats to Paul Alcorn, winner of the Intel CEO Draft. Now we wait to see if any of us were actually right! Thanks for playing!

Matt: Don't worry, Intel has water chillers at the ready.

What did you think of our picks? Who had the best choices? Would you pick someone different? As always, let us know in the comments.

    Your comment
  • redgarl
    Raja Koduri... this way Intel will never recover.
  • mischon123
    Lisa Su. AMD should take over Intel. She is uniquely qualified in that she has the most thorough insight into Intel. Intel is more deeply troubled than commonly acknowledged.
  • s1mon7
    I think Intel poaching a different company's CEO to lead them is a very unreasonable expectation unless they wish to tank even faster. Imagining Lisa Su would give up on AMD to lead Intel is just plain silly. It's hard to find a more fulfilling role in life when you're in such position than she has now, and it's about much more than money at that stage, unless you have reached CEO position solely through politics, not skill and commitment, and are insecure regarding your abilities. She is an engineering lead at heart and knows she wouldn't get the same fulfillment or respect for leading Intel. I think she's committed to AMD, unless she ever feels AMD stopped wanting her, which doesn't seem to be the case.

    They are 90% likely to hire from within at Intel. Unless nobody's up to the task, then they will hire externally and fail further.
    To succeed, Intel needs a technical manager from within to lead them, someone who truly understands the engineering work that they're capable of from within. It's a complex company with plenty of hidden talent, sinking while their core is sleeping on many opportunities. You need to know it inside out to turn it around. Their largest mistake was becoming a large excel sheet rather than a tech innovator.