Sat, Mar 21, 2015 - Page 13 News List

HTC CEO steps aside for co-founder

LATERAL MOVE:Former CEO Peter Chou saw HTC rise to the top of the US market, but share prices and market share shrink. He will now focus on product development

By Lauly Li  /  Staff reporter

HTC Corp co-founder and chairperson Cher Wang gestures while speaking during a news conference ahead of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, on March 1. Wang became HTC’s chief executive officer yesterday.

Photo: Bloomberg

Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC Corp (宏達電) yesterday said it had appointed chairperson and co-founder Cher Wang (王雪紅) as its new chief executive officer, a move the market has long expected after the company continued to see disappointing sales and market share over the past three years.

Former chief executive officer Peter Chou (周永明), who had been in the post for more than a decade, is now to head HTC’s Future Development Lab, the company said in a statement.

Chou, 58, presided over HTC’s rise to the top of the US smartphone rankings, the settling of a patent dispute with Apple Inc and the purchase and sale of Beats Electronics LLC.

His tenure also saw the stock drop and market share shrink as HTC competed with cheaper handsets from Xiaomi Corp (小米) and the more diverse offerings of Samsung Electronics Co.

Chou will now be responsible for the company’s product development, the statement said.

The change in leadership comes after HTC delayed shipments of its latest flagship handset, the One M9, in Taiwan from Monday to tomorrow due to software fixes.

In the statement, HTC said Wang had been increasingly involved in the running of various aspects of the business over the past two years, allowing Chou to focus on product development, a role in which he has demonstrated his cutting-edge expertise.

The statement said the company’s board thought it was now appropriate to make the organizational change in a bid to enable HTC to proceed to the next stage of its development.

“As an entrepreneur at heart, I am excited to see so many new opportunities, and I am honored to accept this opportunity to help shape the next stage of HTC’s development,” Wang said in the statement, citing the positive responses from the public to HTC’s virtual reality product, HTC Vive, unveiled earlier this month.

“I know the company, I know the people and I have the vision,” Wang, 56, later told Bloomberg News in an interview. “I think I am the best candidate. I suggested it.”

In the past 12 months, HTC has diverged from its phone-only strategy to add a periscope-shaped RE “action camera,” a smart wristband in cooperation with Under Armour Inc and a virtual reality headset powered by Valve Corp’s Steam software.

“The last two years have been very challenging for HTC, and HTC is getting much better,” Wang told Bloomberg. “I don’t really think a year ago would have been the right time [to replace Chou].”

Yuanta Securities Investment Consulting Co (元大投顧) yesterday said things would not change substantially at the company, as Wang has lately been performing some of the roles of the chief executive officer.

“On a positive note, I think Wang has been well-schooled in every position, such as sales, marketing and product development,” Yuanta analyst Jeff Pu (蒲得宇) told the Taipei Times by telephone.

Pu said he thinks HTC is in transition from a smartphone brand to a smart lifestyle provider, in which he said it is too early to tell the strategy results, but he thinks it is a move in the right direction.

HTC yesterday afternoon held a staff meeting to explain the organizational change and later held a meeting with analysts, the company said.

The company’s shares closed at NT$141.5 in Taipei trading yesterday, unchanged from the previous day.

Additional reporting by Bloomberg

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