mannerisms

Ruminations on the electronics industry from David Manners, Senior Components Editor on Electronics Weekly.

ST-E CEO Lacks One Thing

The new boss of ST-Ericsson is in his 50s. The out-going CEO is also in his 50s. Both have 
a list of qualifications as long as your arm but both lack a key ingredient for running a chip company – youth.

The founders of Fairchild were in their 20s when they revolutionized the semiconductor industry, and later the world.

As Silicon Valley spawned company after company to stoke the exploding chip industry, the 
founders of these companies were guys in their 20s and 30s.    

The young had the energy to work long hours, the disruptive motivation to prove they were right and their elders wrong, and the ignorance that what they were doing was probably impossible.

It was a young person’s game requiring the brashness and risk-taking of youth.

ST-Ericsson looks like a goner. If it’s going to survive it needs a revolutionary in charge who will set out to do the impossible. 

But 50 year-olds don’t usually bet their reputations on a high-risk, high-gain vision of the future.

Tags: elders, Fairchild, founders, reputations, silicon valley

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27 Comments

  1. David Manners
    April 14, 2012 07:58

    Passion to succeed, willingness to take risks, prodigious energy and fresh thinking are not the exclusive prerogative of youth, but they are more usually found in the young than in the middle-aged [Anonymous] Pistorio was an exception in having these qualities at 51. I think we are all disappointed that ST-E hasn’t been given a leader with these qualities. So much more could have been done.

  2. Anonymous
    April 13, 2012 22:46

    Pistorio was 51 when he started SGS-Thomson in 1987. He created the most successful European Semiconductor company … until unfortunately he left STM for a stupid age limit reason. So cut the crap with young CEO being the only one capable to successfully drive a Semiconductor company.

  3. David Manners
    December 13, 2011 22:41

    Yes the Continentals love their techno-charities, Bitter, but whether their mounting debts will make them re-think their attitude – that’s something to be determined after the French elections next year.

  4. Bitter
    December 13, 2011 17:45

    I bet that the STM and Ericsson shareholders think that their money are well spent on this adult day care welfare program.

  5. David Manners
    December 13, 2011 11:38

    Yes Bitter, it makes the $1.5 billion extracted from ST for NXP’s share of ST-E look like the deal of the century – assuming that was not beaten for the title by F van H’s sale of NXP to KKR for $10 billion. When it comes to deals it’s tough to beat a Dutchman.

  6. Bitter
    December 13, 2011 11:18

    It is a pleasure to watch the STE careerist management scrambling to get competitive products after being knocked off their cozy sweet spot.
    Oh yes, they had it all figured out. Then came the smartphone/*nix revolution and they were stuck with what was left of R&D and engineering (mostly legacy) and their clunky proprietary platforms.
    Now it is just an engineering and R&D farce lead by clowns. I wonder if there are any customers at all taking them seriously?

  7. Someone
    December 13, 2011 07:49

    i think they should realise and change the culture.. focus on Asia..instead of shifting the focal point back to french..the new re-org just can’t work..

  8. Bitter
    November 30, 2011 21:12

    The only thing ST-Ericsson manages to beat is itself to death with the U8500 epic fail.

  9. David Manners
    November 30, 2011 14:03

    Good for you, mgp-1, I was hoping you’d say that

  10. mgp-1
    November 30, 2011 13:29

    OK … you’ve talked me into it. I’ll save ST-E; someone’s got to … and it won’t be run by committee on my watch :-)

  11. David manners
    November 30, 2011 10:51

    But Malcolm is heroic, Mike, which most modern CEOs aren’t

  12. Mike Bryant
    November 30, 2011 09:53

    Malcolm still criss crosses the planet almost weekly for Future Horizons and he’s entitled to a free bus pass :-)

  13. David Manners
    November 30, 2011 09:51

    And, Robert, Hosein Yassaie was CEO of Imagination Technologies at 34

  14. David Manners
    November 30, 2011 09:38

    Sehat Sujarta was CEO of Marvell at 34, Robert, and that’s done pretty well.

  15. Robert
    November 30, 2011 08:01

    David, I agree with your sentiment but in reality the semiconductor market is very complex these days. I’m not sure that any 30 year old regardless of how dynamic they are can possibly manage a big semi company.

  16. David Manners
    November 30, 2011 06:43

    When STE beats QCM, Nana, I will eat my hat

  17. David Manners
    November 30, 2011 06:40

    The other thing besides risk-taking is getting customers. Saxby spent most of his early years at ARM at 30,000 feet cross-crossing the planet looking for customers. STE, with the demise of Nokia, desperately needs to do the same. This kind of constant traveling requires youthful energy.

  18. Mike Bryant
    November 30, 2011 02:22

    I bet you had to use wikipedia to work out his age when he joined ARM :-)
    However he was still going strong over a decade later. Some people have the vitality no matter what their age. I know she isn’t your favourite person but you can’t fault Margaret Thatcher on her vitality when in her 50s and 60s even when surrounded by those of average abilities at best.
    Where I totally agree with you is on the need for a risk taking attitude no matter what your age. Too many projects ‘project plan’ themselves to an early grave nowadays with a risk adverse strategy rather than go for it. For STE this has been a double whammy where not only they but their key customer have chosen ‘death by committee’.
    Another who is nothing to do with semiconductors is F1′s Adrian Newey and is an example all engineers should look to. Failure simply wasn’t an option in his 20′s, 30′s, 40′s or 50′s. But would a star player young or old risk having CEO of STE on his or her CV :-)

  19. Nana
    November 30, 2011 00:52

    Time will answer this my friend.
    When STE beats QCM, the success stories will be everywhere.

  20. David Manners
    November 29, 2011 22:02

    Point taken, Mike, and Saxby was a particularly dynamic and visionary CEO for a 43 year-old – only 4 years away from being in his 30s! Right from the start he had very ambitious plans for ARM – they were so ambitious that people couldn’t quite believe them. He did stuff no one thought was possible – and I think that’s what’s needed to get ST-E off its knees.

  21. Mike Bryant
    November 29, 2011 21:41

    Actually David in the mid 80s there were numerous RISC architectures floating around looking to be adopted. At least 4 were British plus even more from the US, MIPS included.
    Later on others PowerPC, ARC and others appeared.
    Some were better than ARM’s offering at that point, some worse. But only ARM had Saxby to sell the thing !!

  22. David Manners
    November 29, 2011 21:03

    But Hauser was when he started Acorn which invented the ARM processor architecture when it was received wisdom that you had to be a Mote or a National or an Intel to design a processor. In many ways it’s tougher to fix a sick company than start a new one. ST-E doesn’t need a safe pair of hands, it needs a dynamic visionary.

  23. Mike Bryant
    November 29, 2011 19:34

    One problem is that many dynamic 30 year olds aren’t attracted to the semiconductor industry any more. They go to biotechnology, software or unfortunately more often than not banking.
    Another difference is that the companies mentioned were startups whereas STE is well established and needs some different skills.
    Finally Sir Robin Saxby wasn’t in his 30s when he and his team re-established the UK semiconductor industry !

  24. David Manners
    November 29, 2011 16:30

    My friend, you are SO missing the point. The post referred to semiconductor companies. Apple and IBM are not, primarily, semi companies. Please pay attention.

  25. Michael Kassin
    November 29, 2011 16:20

    My friend, you are SO misguided. Timothy Cook, who is taking over Apple from the late Steve Jobs, is 51. Mr. Jobs himself was 42 when he reassumed the title of CEO at Apple. And Thomas J. Watson, founder of IBM, didn’t introduce
    the technology that enabled companies to keep track of their social security witholdings (an invention that saved the company, BTW) until he was 63. Don’t judge execs by how old they are. Judge them by what they can DO.

  26. David Manners
    November 29, 2011 15:12

    When T.J. started Cypress in 1984 I thought he was the most dynamic chip guy I’d ever met. He was amazing and did amazing things. That’s the sort of age when you want to, and can do, amazing things. That’s what ST-E needs now – a 30 year -old T.J.

  27. Terry
    November 29, 2011 14:57

    T. J. Rodgers?