Mon, Nov 06, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Morris Chang's life much more than semiconductors

BROADER HORIZONS After stepping down from the top job at TSMC, the chip czar wants to contribute more to his country and the technology industry overall

By Lisa Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Morris Chang, chairman of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co, gestures while answering an investor's question when announcing the company's financial results for the first quarter of 2005 on April 26 last year.

TAIPEI TIMES FILE PHOTO

Unlike most retired corporate heads, Morris Chang (張忠謀), founder of the world's top contract chipmaker Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電), did not see his influence on the chip industry diminishing after he relinquished his almost two-decade-long managerial role last year.

Chang, 75, dubbed the father of Taiwan's semiconductor industry, is extending his influence to a fresh area -- the regional economy -- after taking up some governmental appointments recently.

Chang founded TSMC in 1987, and based on a foundry business model he invented himself, saw the chipmaker's annual revenue ascend to NT$265 billion (US$8.05 billion) last year.

Based in Hsinchu Science Park, TSMC's operation is regarded as an indicator for the global semiconductor industry, while Chang's comments on the industry have always drawn the attention of industry insiders.

In May last year, TSMC's board revised a company charter to allow its president, Rick Tsai (蔡力行), to double as chief executive officer. That move not only allowed Tsai to take over from Chang's post as chief executive officer, but also foresaw a possible management shakeup as Chang had told shareholders earlier that he would announce his retirement from the company "at a proper time."

With lighter daily responsibilities, the semiconductor czar wants to contribute more to his country and the overall technology industry.

But it still surprised people when Chang agreed last week to represent President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to attend the annual APEC summit held in next month in Hanoi, Vietnam.

As an entrepreneur, Chang said he would "endeavor to do his part in facilitating the economic development of Taiwan and the Asia-Pacific region," according to a statement released last Monday after the nomination.

Following extraordinary achievements in the semiconductor industry, Chang is assured to be accepted by this year's APEC host member Vietnam, the Presidential Office said.

Being an envoy for the president is Chang's latest move after he agreed in September to serve as a board member at the quasi-official Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), which negotiates cross-strait issues with its Chinese counterpart on behalf of the government.

Chen is typically shut out of the regional economic meetings under pressure from Beijing. In the past, he has usually tapped non-political figures with close ties to the governing Democratic Progress Party, to be his representative.

Nobel Laureate Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲) was a typical example. Lee was a former president of the government-backed research institute Academia Sinica. Lee sided with Chen in the 2000 presidential election, tipping the balance in a close race.

Chang, however, has no publicly avowed political leanings. He said in a statement that he would not become involved in any political issues during his trip to Hanoi.

"I haven't had any instruction [from the President] yet," Chang said, in response to a question about whether the president had asked him to carry any words to the Chinese side.

Chang declined to comment on whether he would play a bigger part in the cross-strait talks.

Regardless of whether Chang would deepen his role in cross-strait relations or not, the tech heavyweight is starting to exert his influence on discussions about the Asia-Pacific region.

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