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Freescale CEO sees IPO when the market is right

Posted: 22 Nov 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Richard Beyer? interview? semiconductor? embedded?

Richard Beyer became Freescale Semiconductor Inc.'s CEO in March 2008. Since then, the man who is not a chip head, a financial wizard, nor a self-proclaimed "visionary" touting the next-big-thing, has reduced and restructured debt to the point where an IPO is possible.

Beyer was raised in Brooklyn, New York. He studied Russian in high school and attended Georgetown University to study linguistics. He also served in the U.S. Marine Corps.

So, how does a man from this background deal with the challenges posed by Freescale, one of the most debt-ridden chip companies since its acquisition by private-equity firms Blackstone Group, Carlyle Group, Permira and TPG Inc. in 2006?

Beyer is upbeat and confident of himself, his executive management team and the company. The company's debt has been reduced and restructured to a point where Beyer can chat about a potential IPO.

In an interview with EE Times, Beyer showed no signs of fear or fatigue.

EE Times: First, a little background. How do you land in the semiconductor industry?

Beyer: I grew up in the pre-semiconductor era, first by selling Burroughs' Unix computers in the Eastern bloc (I was then based in Vienna, and later in London). Later, at Rockwell, I dealt with companies like ITT and Alcatel.

When Gil Amelio, then National Semiconductor CEO, whom I've known since Rockwell days, recruited me in the early 90's, he painted the future of semiconductors as something consisting of "a bundle of functions" on any given system. I don't mean to oversell my story, but Gil convinced me I could be the person who understands how system companies think, behave and get motivatedin order to help National.

EET: How did you learn about the industry?

BEYER: I spent six months at National, getting lectures from engineers once a week on two topics: how we make semiconductors and how we design semiconductors. I understand the underpinnings of design and manufacture. I'm not frightened by technologies, and I'm not afraid to admit what I don't know.

EET: Any advantage to being a non-EE CEO at Freescale?

BEYER: I don't get lost in the weeds.

EET: Freescale coined the term "fab-lite," but several years before you joined. The whole industry followed the trendexcept for Intel. But as process technology gets more complicated, don't you wonder if the decision not to have design and manufacturing under one roof may come back to haunt you?

BEYER: We no longer need design and manufacturing under the same roof.

In the 1960's and 70's, when it was still very difficult to manufacture chips, there were times when testing of wafers, for example, could have damaged chips. That made everyone think, "Do I need to make changes in a process or in a design?"

But once methodologies are well established and design rules became stable at foundries like TSMC and Globalfoundries, I don't think the "under-one-roof" theory applies.

Of course, engineers in the design community always wonder if they can improve the performance of their chips by introducing certain changes to metal, chemical and other elements used in a process technology.

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