Sanders to step down as AMD chairman

W. J. "Jerry" Sanders III, who made AMD a force to be reckoned with in the chip business, is to retire and assume an honorary role

Sanders is to hand over his post as chairman of chipmaker AMD in April, completing the transition of the company's leadership to chief executive Hector Ruiz, the company has said.

Ruiz, who took over from AMD founder Sanders as chief executive in 2002, was declared chairman-elect last week. He is expected to take up the post of chairman after AMD's annual meeting on 29 April.

The long-planned handover comes as AMD is attempting to climb into more profitable sectors of the semiconductor market with its 64-bit Athlon64 and Opteron processors. On Tuesday, dominant chip company Intel announced it would follow AMD's lead and release a line of 32-bit and 64-bit compatible chips later this year.

Sanders founded AMD in 1969 and served as its chairman and chief executive until two years ago. He will take on the position of chairman emeritus, but will have no executive role with the company. Known for his flamboyant style, Sanders is credited with making AMD a force to be reckoned with in the chip industry. "His continued involvement in helping to shape AMD's vision and strategy as chairman emeritus and as a colleague on the board will be invaluable," said Robert Palmer, lead independent director and chairman of the nominating and corporate governance committee of the board of directors, in a statement.

Ruiz, a Motorola veteran known as a hard-driving operations expert, joined AMD as president and chief operating officer in 2000.

End of an era
For years, AMD was known for its ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory: market-share gains were invariably followed by financial losses and manufacturing problems. Sanders and others worked behind the scenes to prepare AMD for a new, more stable era.

Since 1999, new chip designs and strategic relationships with IBM and others have lead to more consistent sales. The company now regularly commands more than 20 percent of the processor market and has recently begun to make inroads into the lucrative server market.

Management has also been revamped. A large number of AMD's top executives, including some of Ruiz's associates from Motorola, have been with the company less than five years.

CNET's Michael Kannellos contributed to this report.