Updated from 5:01 p.m. EDTSAN FRANCISCO -- Advanced Micro Devices ( AMD) took another step to distance itself from its troubled past as the company prepares to split in half and, it hopes, revive its fortunes. On Thursday, the chipmaker announced that finance chief Bob Rivet was being "promoted" to the title of chief operations officer while the company searches for a new CFO. While AMD said the move will expand Rivet's responsibilities for key company functions, including the supply chain, information technology organization and human resources, it removes him from a position typically considered more central to the company's strategic direction. And it represents the latest step to shuffle AMD's most important senior management positions. In July, CEO Hector Ruiz was replaced by Dirk Meyer. Ruiz and Rivet, both former executives at Motorola's ( MOT) now-defunct semiconductor business, led AMD during one of its greatest periods of glory as the chipmaker challenged Intel's ( INTC) dominance in the market for PC and server microprocessors. But they also presided over the company's recent dark period, including the controversial $5.4 billion acquisition of Canadian graphics maker ATI, which left the company saddled with debt and ultimately results in billions of dollars of writedowns. AMD's bungled launch of its Barcelona processor last year has less to do with Rivet directly. But the 54-year-old executive lost some credibility on Wall Street after setting targets, such as a goal of breaking even in 2007, that AMD ultimately backed away from. AMD has lost more than $5 billion over the past eight quarters, and its shares are down roughly 75% from their 52-week high.
"Up until this past quarter, AMD had a string of quarters where they missed expectations," says Wedbush Morgan Securities analyst Patrick Wang, who rates AMD a hold. "Bob has done a decent job given the challenging situation he been put in. But I think that a lot of investors do want new management running AMD, post-asset-smart," Wang said. Earlier this month, AMD provided details on its much anticipated "asset-smart" plan, which involves spinning off the company's chip fabrication facilities into a separate venture, backed by financing from the Abu Dhabi government. AMD said Rivet will remain in the CFO role until a replacement is announced. AMD spokesperson Drew Prairie said that Rivet will maintain responsibility for finance in his new role as COO, and that the new CFO will report to Rivet. "It really is a broadening of his responsibility," said Prairie, noting that with so many different duties now on Rivet's plate it makes sense to have a dedicated executive under him focused exclusively on finance. The company also announced Thursday that Emilio Ghilardi, currently head of sales for the Europe, Middle East and Africa region, will become chief sales officer at the beginning of 2009. Shares of AMD were up one penny at $3.29 in midday trading Thursday, after declining 34 cents in the regular session.