But as the leader of National Semiconductor for the past 13 years, Halla ranks as the dean among his major chipmaker peers. His decision last week to step down should have met with more fanfare than it did.
When he took over National, it was a near-conglomerate, making everything from PCs to a full slate of chips. Much like Intel’s Grove, who eschewed the memory market for microprocessors, and TI’s Junkins, who stuck with memory, Halla opted to bet the farm on analog chips. In retrospect, his decision was fortuitous — and highly profitable.
While other semiconductor makers suffer through steep cycles, Halla’s strategy has paid off with standard company profit margins above 61%, and even during the nadir of the 2008-09 recession, National’s lowest profit margin was 58%.
More important, he has established a veteran management team that will allow for a smooth transition as he steps aside, and his model will likely carry over as a money-maker for years. Like Grove and Junkins, Halla made the tough calls. Here’s hoping history remembers him well.