Amid speculation that Microsoft Corp. might poach its president, Qualcomm Inc. promoted Steve Mollenkopf, for the first time selecting a CEO from outside a founding family.
Irwin Jacobs started the cellphone chip-maker in 1985 with six others, but he emerged as the face of the San Diego-based company. He served as chief executive through 2005, when son Paul succeeded him. Paul Jacobs, 51, was scheduled to become executive chairman on March 4 and Mollenkopf, 44, who had been president and chief operating officer, will join the board and take over the top job.
The decision ensures “a smooth transition to a proven executive” while maintaining guidance from Paul Jacobs, Sherry Lansing, chair of the board’s governance committee, said in a written statement.
The company declined to make Jacobs or Mollenkopf available for further comment.
Mollenkopf had been “running a good chunk of the day-to-day operations in his COO role,” JPMorgan Chase & Co. analyst Rod Hall said in a research note.
Qualcomm is known for having a relationship-oriented culture, says Steve Krupp, CEO of the leadership-development consultancy Decision Strategies International.
“Preserving the culture was a very important aspect of what a future CEO would have to do,” Krupp said.
Qualcomm may be linked to one family, but it also remains a $25 billion publicly traded company.
“Ultimately, you have to think about the shareholders,” executive recruiter Charley Polachi said.
Succession planning is vital to family-owned businesses, too. They should be thinking about how leadership changes will affect customers, suppliers, employees and other stakeholders, he said. Usually, family businesses look to children or grandchildren to take over the legacy, Polachi said.
But business consultant Tracy Benson says families who control businesses should start succession planning with a key question: “What do we want the legacy of this company to be?”
“Do you want it to be about values or do you want it to be about performance?” Benson said. “How you answer that question will dictate whom you should go get.”