Saturday, January 24, 2009

Craig Barrett: Intel chairman is 'quintessentially a Silicon Valley CEO'

As the leader who revamped Intel's manufacturing processes and invested billions in new facilities around the world, departing company Chairman Craig Barrett will be remembered for his competitive spirit and willingness to take risks.

His commitment to promoting technology education in developing countries and his support for high-tech research also are renowned — as are his marketing stunts. How many other high-tech execs have performed an onstage duet with a rock star at an electronics trade show?

Barrett, 69, announced his retirement as Intel's chairman Friday.

"Craig Barrett is quintessentially a Silicon Valley CEO. Pragmatic, results-oriented, egalitarian and mission-driven," said Carl Guardino, who heads the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, where Barrett served as a board member from 1996 to 2005.

But, Guardino said, Barrett has a big heart beneath his take-charge exterior. "Some perceive him as so business-oriented that they never get past that very pragmatic shell to the incredibly giving and community-minded person that he is."

After 35 years with Intel, including seven as its CEO, Barrett stepped down from that position in May 2005 to became chairman of the board. In a carefully planned transition characteristic of Intel, Paul Otellini, formerly the company's chief operating officer, became president and CEO.

Barrett holds bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees from Stanford University, and taught materials

science there before joining Intel in 1974 as a technology development manager. He was made a vice president in 1984, and after more promotions was elected to the board of directors in 1992. In 1993 he was named chief operating officer, became Intel's fourth president in 1997, and chief executive in 1998.

Barrett, who has authored a textbook called "Principles of Engineering Materials" and written more than 40 technical papers, brought a professor's rigor to reworking Intel's manufacturing operations. He developed the company's "copy exactly" process, in which every chip plant is designed with the same exacting formula. Even the paint on the walls of the fabrication plants is specified.

"Craig has definitely been one of the true visionaries with regard to improved manufacturing methodologies and their implementation in the semiconductor industry," said George Scalise, president of the Semiconductor Industry Association, who has known Barrett for about 25 years. "He's made huge contributions both to Intel and the industry."

But even visionaries like to mix it up. Barrett, known for a dry wit if not a strong singing voice, wailed "Walk This Way" with Steven Tyler, frontman of the rock band Aerosmith, on stage at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2005. And many in the valley remember when, in 2004, he got down on his knees to jokingly ask an audience forgiveness for an Intel product snafu.

Stunts aside, Scalise said Barrett has "been tireless in his efforts to bring funding for basic research to universities." Barrett is a member of the SIA's board, co-chairs the Business Coalition for Student Achievement, and has been active in promoting health care technology for seniors.

Many regard Barrett as a sort of statesman for the technology industry. He has reportedly traveled to more than 60 countries, and he chairs the United Nations Global Alliance for Information and Communication Technologies and Development.

Intel officials did not specify what Barrett's post-chairmanship plans are, and Barrett, who lives in Arizona, was not available for comment Friday. Friends say he is an avid skier and mountain biker, and loves to fly fish in Montana, where he has a ranch.

But if his remarks during a keynote speech at the CES earlier this month are any indication, he is unlikely to cut short his work promoting technological development in poor countries. Urging the crowd to get involved, he said, "Lots of work has been done, but lots more needs to be done."


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