Brian Krzanich Resigns from Intel

Not above the rules, but his vision and mission is at risk

Jon Peddie

Intel announced that Brian Krzanich, its CEO since 2013, has resigned as CEO and board member of Intel. Intel was informed that Mr. Krzanich, 58, violated the company's non-fraternization policy, and had a past consensual relationship with an Intel employee. An ongoing investigation by internal and external counsel confirmed the violation of Intel's non-fraternization policy, which the company pointed out, applies to all managers. Given the expectation that all employees will respect Intel's values and adhere to the company's code of conduct, the board accepted Mr. Krzanich's resignation.

During his term, Intel's shares rose about 120%, normalized to the Nasdaq. He led the $15.3 billion acquisition of MobilEye, the biggest in Intel’s history, pushed the company into AI on several fronts, and opened up a new era in GPU development.

Stunned fans of Krzanich protested. If you get buzzed at a company party and an employee flirts with you (or other way around) and you have sex, you get run out of the company? Was he married when this happened? Even so…the shareholders are the boss. Is this in their best interest?

Getting buzzed, and flirting are convenient excuses for bad behavior. No one who has participated in such situation, from Bill Crosby to Jimmy the mail room boy can look you in the eye and say, gosh, I didn’t know that was wrong. But they, and their apologists can find lots of rationalizations for why they should be excused—the “yeah buts.”

Intel is a very policy process-driven company. The rule has been in place for a long time and is well known to all employees. This is not a moral issue, there are no equivalency diversions, it is as simple as if he (or any employee) had stolen money, or trade secrets, or punched out a fellow employee. It’s a well-established policy, he ignored it for short-term gratification, and now the bill has come due. I think Brian Krzanich has been great for Intel and moved them in new and correct directions, especially with regard to GPUs. His leadership will be missed, and his visions diminished in his absence, it’s too bad his emotions got the better of him, he had a lot of promise.

As mentioned, Intel is a policy-driven company, and the GPU program has been in place for a while. Investments are being made and Intel will follow through on the original plan. But without the architect of the plan there to defend and guide it, all of the detractors who are still there will try to whittle away at it to serve their own personal agendas.

Assuming the other employee involved was not raising an issue or asking for compensation, Intel could have easily swept this under the carpet. One comment heard is that the policy needs to change. I disagree—no it doesn’t.  No more “Me too.” Intel and Krzanich are to be congratulated for the strength and commitment that it took to do this. And I am sorry to see him leave.