President, Qualcomm Inc.
By Asa Fitch
Cristiano Amon started building a career in telecoms in the 1990s, bouncing from NEC Corp. to Qualcomm Inc. and Ericsson AB during the heyday of early cell networks. But after the dot-com bubble burst, he found himself back home in São Paulo, Brazil, trying to turn around a recently bankrupt mobile operator buried by debt.
Assigned by a telecom venture-capital investor to help restructure the company, Vésper, Mr. Amon and other top executives reined in costs and convinced creditors to sell back more than $1 billion of debt at a discount. The company pushed technologies never before tried in Latin America and traded in rights to fiber-optic networks, part of a task Mr. Amon said "required a lot of new and unconventional thinking." Vésper was eventually sold to Embratel in 2003.
That make-your-own-luck spirit helped Mr. Amon rise up Qualcomm's executive ladder after he joined the mobile technology giant for a second stint in 2004, eventually taking charge of product planning and development at the company's core mobile-chip business. By building Qualcomm's relationship with Chinese handset makers and leading the charge to roll out new 5G networks, Mr. Amon has helped Qualcomm become a leading chip supplier and a key American technology player at a time when the company has also fought a handful of big, existential battles -- including a hostile takeover bid in 2017 and a world-spanning legal challenge to its business model from Apple Inc. The hostile bid was dropped last year, and Qualcomm settled its differences with Apple this year.
Here are four people he turns to for advice.
Former AT&T Wireless Services CTO
As Mr. Amon shifted from technical roles to more business-focused ones, Mr. Kauser's broad-mindedness and practicality have been an important guide. Mr. Kauser hired Mr. Amon to work at the venture firm that had a stake in Vésper, and they've remained close since. "He always talks about what is the real problem the technology is solving, versus the technology itself," Mr. Amon says.
Former Qualcomm CTO
When Mr. Amon needs sage advice from an experienced hand, Mr. Padovani is often the person he turns to first. Especially in the years after he returned to Qualcomm, when Mr. Padovani was the chief technology officer, Mr. Amon sought his advice on big business decisions and how to navigate career-wise within Qualcomm. "I'd use him as a sounding board," Mr. Amon says. "He was always available."
Co-chairman of Brazil's Itaú Unibanco Holding S.A.
While their relationship is still young -- the men met roughly two years ago -- Mr. Amon says Mr. Setubal is a growing influence. He admires the Brazilian banker for his balanced, realist's view on the intersection of banking and technology, but also his willingness to adapt when circumstances call for it. Itaú Unibanco put Mr. Amon on its digital advisory board in 2017. "He can always bring a perspective different from the perspective I'm used to," Mr. Amon says.
CEO of Microsoft Corp.
Since taking the reins at Microsoft in 2014, Mr. Nadella engineered a dramatic turnaround that investors have rewarded by making it the world's most valuable company. Mr. Amon sees his ability to make that pivot -- something Qualcomm and other tech companies also may have to do one day -- as an inspiration. "When I think about the future of the wireless industry, 5G and connecting to the cloud, and industries that will be completely transformed, I could not think of anybody better to be on my board," Mr. Amon says.
Write to Asa Fitch at email@example.com