Qualcomm’s chief executive Steve Mollenkopf will hand over the reins to his longstanding deputy Cristiano Amon this summer, after almost seven years leading the US chipmaker through a series of legal and corporate challenges.
Mr Mollenkopf will retire after a tumultuous tenure that saw the California-based company face lawsuits alleging anti-competitive behaviour from Apple and the US Federal Trade Commission, a hostile takeover bid from rival Broadcom, and pressure from activist investors to break itself up — all while building toward the launch of a new generation of 5G smartphone chips.
Qualcomm was thrust into the front lines of the US-China trade war in 2018, when Donald Trump blocked Broadcom’s $117bn bid over national security concerns, focused on its key role in developing 5G technology. Months later, Qualcomm’s own $44bn takeover of Dutch rival NXP was thwarted when it failed to gain regulatory approval from China.
“Steve navigated through unprecedented circumstances during his tenure, facing more in his seven years as CEO than most leaders face in their entire careers,” said Mark McLaughlin, chair of Qualcomm’s board of directors, in a statement on Tuesday.
Mr Mollenkopf’s successor, Mr Amon, is another Qualcomm veteran who until now has been running its chips business as the company’s president. Mr Amon, who has led its product road map as well as M&A for almost 15 years, will now add oversight of Qualcomm’s lucrative but sometimes controversial patent licensing business to his duties.
Qualcomm’s share price has more than doubled since mid-March, driven by strong demand for 5G smartphones, including Apple’s latest iPhone 12 range after the two companies settled their litigation in 2019, and its resolution of a long-running licensing dispute with Huawei last July.
“We have been at the forefront of innovation for decades and I look forward to maintaining this position going forward,” Mr Amon said. “In addition to driving the expansion of 5G into mainstream devices and beyond mobile, Qualcomm is set to play a key role in the digital transformation of numerous industries as our technologies become essential to connecting everything to the cloud.”
Mr Amon will take over effective June 30, with Mr Mollenkopf, who first joined Qualcomm 26 years ago, staying on as an adviser for an unspecified period.