Henry Samueli, Broadcom Corp.
But that's not quite how it goes. Nicholas has a PhD, and Samueli, as Light Reading discovered during a recent California visit, is a warm and charismatic guy, and forcefully upbeat, despite the brutal conditions that faced communications chip vendors in 2002.
Yeah, Broadcom had just laid off about 15 percent of the staff (see Axe Falls at Broadcom), but it was the first major layoff in the company's 11-year history. Yeah, the company's growth spurt stopped, but revenues have been mercifully flat during the downturn, keeping Broadcom a $1 billion company. Maybe Samueli comes across a bit cocky, but that's part of the Broadcom way; Nicholas in particular is infamous for piling on the superlatives, and some analysts admit to rolling their eyes at Broadcom's PowerPoint theatrics.
Of course, you might be smug too, if you had Broadcom's kind of winning streak. The company started when the Henrys left PairGain Technologies Inc. in 1991 to develop chips for cable set-top boxes, leaving behind some lucrative stock options. The gamble paid off in 1998, when Broadcom's $24-a-share IPO jumped 123 percent in one day, finishing the year above $116.
Then, as 2000 unfolded, Broadcom went beyond superstar to superpower. A stock price exceeding $200 gave the company the fuel to keep pace as Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), and other giants began snapping up startups like jelly beans.
Obviously those days have ended, and Broadcom's stock price now hangs in the $16 range. The company's hardly in ruins, though, having expanded into a mini-empire touching on Ethernet, DSL, security, wireless, and even optical networking. And unlike Vitesse Semiconductor Corp. (Nasdaq: VTSS) or PMC-Sierra Inc. (Nasdaq: PMCS), which have had to drop some of the projects they acquired, Broadcom officials say they won't throw back any of the fish they've caught. Samueli says they're in it to lead each of those markets.
Technically, Samueli is still a professor of electrical engineering at UCLA, but Broadcom is his day job, and he's not about to trade back his swank office – with all its expensive dark-wood furniture – for the tin-can filing cabinets of academia. We stopped by on a sunny Southern California day (imagine that) to hear him explain why he doesn't think the fun is over.