Qualcomm Taps Former Palo Alto Networks CEO as Board Chairman

Wireless giant Qualcomm has appointed Mark McLaughlin, the former CEO of network security company Palo Alto Networks, as chairman of its board of directors.

McLaughlin joined Silicon Valley-based Palo Alto Networks (NYSE: PANW) as president and CEO in 2011, ahead of its 2012 IPO. He served as the company’s top executive through June 2018.

Prior to his time at Palo Alto Networks, McLaughlin was CEO of Internet infrastructure company Verisign (NASDAQ: VRSN). While at Verisign he was appointed by President Barack Obama to the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee, which advises the federal government on the nation’s communications infrastructure. He headed the committee for two years, starting in November 2014.

He joined the Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) board in July 2015. McLaughlin takes over board chairman duties from Jeff Henderson, the former chief financial officer of Cardinal Health (NYSE: CAH).

The San Diego chipmaker appointed Henderson as chairman in March 2018 after ousting then-executive chairman Paul Jacobs, who announced he intended to pursue a quixotic proposal to take the company private in the face of a hostile takeover bid from rival chipmaker Broadcom (NASDAQ: AVGO). The proposed takeover fell apart later that year after a US panel raised national security concerns. At the time, Broadcom was based abroad, in Singapore; it has since relocated its corporate headquarters to San Jose, CA.

Jacobs, son of Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs, had served as the company’s chairman since 2014, following nearly a decade as Qualcomm’s CEO. After being removed from the board, Jacobs started a wireless technology startup, San Diego-based Xcom. He launched the business alongside Matt Grob and Derek Aberle, both former longtime Qualcomm executives.

In prepared remarks, McLaughlin said Henderson took over “during a period of unparalleled challenges” for Qualcomm, and during his tenure helped the company handle “significant business issues.”

In addition to dodging an acquisition by Broadcom, Qualcomm maneuvered through a high-profile international legal battle with Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) over licensing fees, a massive part of its business.

Henderson said Qualcomm will benefit from McLaughlin’s experience, especially as it ramps up its push to 5G, the latest iteration of cellular technology.

“We are now seeing the dawn of a significant ramp in 5G enabled products and I felt that now seemed like the right time to pass on the baton,” he said in a news release. Henderson will remain on the board and continue to lead Qualcomm’s audit committee.

Sarah de Crescenzo is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can reach her at sdecrescenzo@xconomy.com. Follow @sarahdc

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