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Talk of CEO Change Swirls at AMD

While Sanders built AMD and served as its chief executive for 33 years, Ruiz came closest to bringing the company to the promised land, overseeing AMD's transformation from a me-too chipmaker to an established, if undersized, player in today's PC microprocessor duopoly.

The key to that breakthrough was the introduction in 2003 of the Opteron processor, which featured impressive performance and energy-efficiency that allowed AMD to gain market share by winning accounts with PC makers like Dell (DELL), which had historically brought microprocessors exclusively from Intel (INTC).

Shares of AMD grew nearly seven-fold during a three-year period ending in early 2006.

This track record has earned Ruiz a nice reserve of goodwill inside and outside the company, something that may explain why there haven't been louder calls for his head given the magnitude of AMD's recent woes.

"It wasn't very long ago that AMD could do no wrong," says Stifel Nicolaus analyst Acree.

AMD's two largest shareholders, Capital Research and Management and Fidelity Management & Research, which own 16% and 13% of the chipmaker, respectively, both declined to comment on individual holdings.

How much breathing room Ruiz has left is unclear. AMD's stock is down 38% this year, closing Tuesday's regular session at $12.40.

Just as importantly, the company's product line looks weak compared to the onslaught of new Intel processors hitting the market , a situation that hasn't been helped by problems AMD has encountered getting its new quad-core Barcelona processor out the door.

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