Chip Giant Intel Picks Interim Leader as Permanent C.E.O. After Long Search

SAN FRANCISCO — The chip-making giant Intel ended a seven-month search for a new chief executive on Thursday by naming the man who was running the company on an interim basis as its permanent leader.

Robert Swan, who was installed as interim chief executive in June, had been Intel’s chief financial officer since joining the company in 2016.

Mr. Swan, 58, inherits a role that opened up suddenly when Brian Krzanich, a longtime Intel insider who ran the company for five years, was forced out over a past affair with an employee.

Mr. Swan, who is well regarded on Wall Street, initially said he was not interested in becoming the permanent chief executive. But he made no mention of his prior reluctance in a letter to employees on Thursday. “When the board approached me about taking the CEO role, I jumped at the opportunity to remove ‘interim’ from my title,” he said.

The lengthy search for a successor to Mr. Krzanich prompted speculation that Intel would pick an outsider for the first time in its 50-year history. Andy Bryant, Intel’s chairman, said Thursday that the board had conducted a “comprehensive” evaluation of internal and external candidates before settling on Mr. Swan. Mr. Bryant credited Mr. Swan’s performance in the interim role for making the difference.

“We considered many outstanding executives and we concluded the best choice is Bob,” Mr. Bryant said in prepared remarks.

Although Mr. Swan is taking the helm at a time when Intel is financially strong, it faces many questions about its future. One main cause for concern was the company’s stumble in establishing a new process for producing tinier transistors on chips, a pattern of miniaturization that regularly lowers the cost of computing and storing data.

Intel wound up with a shortage of some kinds of chips, particularly those used in personal computers, because production capacity meant for the new process had to be shifted back to the company’s existing manufacturing technology.

Intel reported last Thursday that its revenue increased 13 percent, to $70.8 billion, in 2018. But the company projected only slight growth for this year, amid heightened competition and uncertainty about sales in China.

In his current role, Mr. Swan has stressed a strategy that would take Intel — long the dominant supplier of processors for personal computers and server systems — into larger markets where it has lagged. In his letter to employees, he said Intel needed to be more unified and to reduce its operating miscues.

“Our execution must improve,” he wrote. “And it will. Our customers are counting on us.

Mr. Swan, a relative newcomer to semiconductors, has plenty of experience in the technology sector. He spent nine years as eBay’s chief financial officer and served as chief financial officer and chief executive of the ill-fated delivery start-up Webvan Group. Immediately before joining Intel, he served as an operating partner at the equity firm General Atlantic.

Analysts said the choice of Mr. Swan suggested Intel’s directors believed the company was headed in the right direction.

Wall Street was probably expecting Intel’s board to pick a more “transformational or visionary choice with a proven track record,” Hans Mosesmann, an analyst at Rosenblatt Securities, wrote in a research note. “Our view is that Bob is a solid choice on the notion that, as a non-semiconductor guy, he can look at the big decisions ahead dispassionately.”

Intel’s stock was down around 2 percent in midday trading after the announcement.

Intel also said Thursday that Todd Underwood, vice president of finance and director of corporate planning and reporting, would be interim chief financial officer as the company seeks a permanent successor to Mr. Swan as chief financial officer.

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