Gilbert F. Amelio, president of Rockwell Communication Systems, will succeed Charles E. Sporck as president and chief executive of National Semiconductor Corp. upon Sporck’s retirement in May, the Santa Clara-based chip firm announced Thursday.
Amelio, 47, a respected and well-known member of the semiconductor industry, will join National on Feb. 4 and will share executive responsibilities with Sporck during the transition period preceding his retirement. Sporck, 63, is one of the founding fathers of Silicon Valley.
Amelio, who led Rockwell’s semiconductor operations in Orange County prior to his current position with the defense contractor, faces a tough assignment at National, a pioneering U.S. semiconductor manufacturer particularly stung by Japanese competition in recent years.
Although the company posted a modest $3.5-million profit in its most recent quarter, it has lost money in six of its last 10 quarters. Last year the company cut its work force and sold a major chip factory.
National’s largest problem, analysts say, is that it relies extensively on low-cost commodity-type chips, products that are most vulnerable to competition from the Japanese and other lower-cost Asian manufacturers.
Sporck, who had left daily operations of National to his lieutenants in 1987 to lead U.S. efforts to revitalize its floundering semiconductor industry, took back the company’s reins in 1989 and promised to restore its lost luster. Despite the most recent profit, analysts say the company is still as vulnerable to its Asian rivals and may be unable to post a profit in the current quarter.
Sporck said Amelio was selected from a field of several candidates from within and outside the company. He said Amelio’s “extraordinary combination” of professional, technical, management and business experience made him the “superior choice.”
Amelio has been president of Rockwell’s communications unit since mid 1988, when the unit was created from the company’s former telecommunications and semiconductor organizations. Prior to this assignment, Amelio headed the company’s semiconductor unit, a post he held since joining Rockwell in 1983 from Fairchild Camera & Instrument Corp. where he was a senior executive. Amelio holds or shares 16 patents and holds a doctorate in solid state physics at Bell Laboratories, where he was assigned to the device development department.
Sporck has served as president, chief executive and a director of National Semiconductor since joining the company in 1967. Prior to joining National Semiconductor, he was general manager of the semiconductor division of Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corporation, which he joined in 1959. He is a founding member of the Semiconductor Industry Assn., and serves as chairman of the board of Sematech.