Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Video: Sean Maloney, Intel’s New China Chief, Talks About Rowing and Recovery

You wouldn’t be going out on a limb to say that Sean Maloney had a pretty good chance to be the next CEO of Intel. He is one of its best-known executives, both inside the company and out, known for his passionate and dynamic speeches at Intel events.

I’ve interviewed him a few times over the years, and grown to like him mainly because he’s a straight shooter, and tells you exactly what he’s thinking, even if he annoys his PR handlers by wandering off message a bit to get his point across. His most recent job was executive vice president of Intel’s Architecture Group.

When he suffered a stroke early last year and went on medical leave to recover, I naturally thought he might be out of contention. Handicapping the CEO succession question is one of the perennial and more cynical subjects occupying the minds of reporters who cover Intel. People who have strokes often recover physically but struggle with speech the rest of their lives, and being CEO of Intel requires a great deal of public speaking. I hoped my assumptions were wrong.

On a visit to Intel late last year, over lunch I asked around informally about Maloney. Naturally the folks there were careful to guard his privacy, but I came away with one key clue: Sean is rowing again. I didn’t know Sean so well as to be aware of his passion for rowing, but once I knew the backstory, I made note of it for later. It seemed pretty important.

Yesterday Intel named Maloney to a new position, chairman of Intel China. The creation of such a position says a lot about Intel’s belief in that country as an overwhelmingly important market not only for PCs and servers but for the smartphones and mobile devices for which Intel badly wants to sell chips. It also says a lot about how far Maloney has come back.

Yet I didn’t see any evidence in yesterday’s coverage that anyone had interviewed Maloney. Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy described him to The Wall Street Journal’s Don Clark as “mentally and physically back to normal and doing very well.” I wanted to hear it from Maloney himself.

Remembering the tip about rowing, I thought there might be some gossip or anecdotes about him on the water, or evidence that he’s been competing in rowing events. What I found was the video below, shot in February of this year. In it, Maloney talks about how a doctor said he’d never row again. Determined to prove him wrong, and at that point unable to speak well enough to argue the point, he got someone to take him down to the docks and just started rowing, in circles at first because he had no use of his right arm. It was a start, but what a start. Maloney went on to compete in October in the Head of the Charles Regatta, a major rowing event in Boston. (You can see his finish here.) He didn’t win the race, but he sure won that argument with the doctor.

So if you were looking for any evidence of how well Maloney is doing since his stroke, look no further than this video where he speaks for himself. It’s pretty inspiring.


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