— There are no guarantees in life or the markets, as the saying goes.

And so it seems, for Qualcomm Inc., too.

Qualcomm, which held its annual shareholders meeting on March 23 is forging ahead to a future that still holds a lot of unknowns and challenges — complete with lawsuit battles against Apple Inc., an as-yet-to-be-completed deal with NXP Semiconductors NV, a former CEO with an idea to purchase the company and take it private, and a 10-member board of directors that shareholders have put on notice.

The Takeaway

Leadership will be crucial for Qualcomm as it continues to expand its fifth generation (5G) technology into other industries besides cellular.

“The company is (a) national treasure,” said Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a senior associate dean and a professor of leadership practice at the Yale School of Management. “It’s been a long-standing source of fundamental innovation for decades and our pathway to the next fifth generation of mobility.”

The Jacobses

This is the first time in Qualcomm’s history that a Jacobs isn’t a part of the company.

Paul Jacobs, former CEO and executive chairman, and whose father, Irwin Jacobs, helped co-found the company, did not receive a re-nomination to serve on the board of directors.

That move followed a series of events, including Jacobs losing his spot as chairman of the board, and when Jacobs announced that he was interested in mounting a proposal to bid on the company and take it private.

“Most of our nation’s history has been a triumph of private, family-dynastic capital,” Sonnenfeld said. “Only since before World War II did we start to see the advent of managerial capitalism where you have lots of disparate shareholders with hired-hand employee managers as the dominant form of capitalism.”

He cited Michael Dell as a parallel to Paul Jacobs’ situation with Qualcomm. Dell, who purchased his eponymous company with the help of the private equity firm, Silver Light, to complete the deal, was able to take the then-public company private.

Dell is a great success story, Sonnenfeld said.

But in none of those cases, were the prospective buyers as board members forced off the board.

Contrary to many analysts’ notions that Jacobs’ would-be bid on the company was farcical, Sonnenfeld said he didn’t think it would be out of the question.

A privately-run Qualcomm, he said, would continue to have a very strong R&D base and would be allowed to make a schedule of investments that were on the shorter term and longer term. The company would also spend a lot less time in the distraction of activist-investor discourse and hostile raiders that see great value in optioning off pieces.