No one is ever going to call Cher Wang (王雪紅) “poor little rich girl.”
The daughter of one of the richest men in the world, she never made headlines as a profligate jetsetter sponging off her father’s wealth.
Indeed, she rarely makes headlines at all, although she started her own multibillion-dollar company and made her own fortune.
Wang is one of the most powerful female executives in technology whom you have never heard of. The company she founded, the High Tech Computer Corp (HTC, 宏達電), makes one out of every six smartphones sold in the US, most of which are marketed under brands like Palm and Verizon.
Last week the iPhone’s most likely rival, the T-Mobile G1, designed by HTC and powered by Google’s Android operating system, went on sale. The attention is something HTC has never sought. And the same can be said of Wang.
“I kind of like it that way,” she said in a rare interview last month as she tucked into a lunch of mahi mahi, spinach and mushrooms at the Faculty Club at the University of California, Berkeley, where she graduated in 1981. “I don’t need to be the center of attention.”
In her native Taiwan, though, where she is called Wang Hsiueh-hong, Wang and her family are a technology dynasty. Her recently deceased father, Wang Yung-ching (王永慶), founded the plastics and petrochemicals conglomerate Formosa Plastics Group (台塑集團). According to Forbes magazine, he was the second-richest man in Taiwan. Two of his daughters serve on Formosa’s seven-member executive team.
Another daughter, Charlene Wang (王雪齡), helped found First International Computer Inc (大眾電腦), a maker of motherboards. And Cher Wang is chairwoman of not one, but two companies: HTC and VIA Technologies Inc (威盛科技), a developer of silicon chip technology, where her husband, Chen Wen-chi (陳文琦), has been chief executive since 1992.
Forbes estimates the couple’s wealth at US$3.5 billion. HTC’s revenue last year reached NT$118.6 billion (US$3.7 billion). But Cher Wang said she was not defined by wealth — either her own or her parents’.
Leisure time was spent playing tennis or basketball. And becoming a lady who lunches was not an option.
When she was a young girl, Cher Wang said, her father would take her on monthly visits to a local hospital he helped finance. And at her father’s behest, Cher Wang and her siblings studied abroad instead of staying in Taipei.
That is how she ended up in Silicon Valley. Cher Wang was born in Taipei in 1958, one of seven children raised by her father’s second wife. (Altogether Wang Yung-ching had nine children by three wives.) While some of the other children went to private schools in London, the US held more appeal for Cher Wang.
In 1974 she attended the exclusive College Preparatory School in Oakland, California. After graduating from high school, she went to Berkeley, where she was admitted as a music major; she wanted to be a pianist. But after three weeks she switched to economics, in which she later earned a master’s degree.
“This is the building I ran away from,” she said on a walk around campus, pointing to a room at the music school where she had auditioned, playing a piece by Chopin. “I had the dream, but I am also very realistic.”
After graduating from Berkeley, she took a job in 1982 at First International Computer, where she sold motherboards and later oversaw the PC division.
When HTC was founded in 1997, the company made notebook computers. Her husband recalled that a few years after the company started, she and her partners were forced to make a choice: focus on notebooks or shift to hand-held devices, a market that showed signs of promise. Cher Wang urged them to shift to cellphones.
“HTC had strong engineers developing notebooks,” Chen said. “But it was a volatile business with lots of competitors. She saw that clearly and pushed for the other instead.”
It was a smart decision. HTC’s revenue tallied about US$1 billion last quarter, a 29 percent increase from a year earlier.
“She is very demanding in one sense,” Chen said. “If she wants something changed, she’ll speak up about it.”
In HTC’s early days, Cher Wang’s responsibility was to build relationships with customers, including wireless carriers, and vendors whose products HTC needed. She spent a lot of time in Silicon Valley. It was then she became close to executives at T-Mobile, which was critical in securing the right to make the first Android-supported phone.
She also managed HTC’s relationship with Microsoft, a longtime partner whose operating system is installed on most HTC phones. Once a year, Cher Wang said, she flies to Seattle and meets Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, the company’s chief executive.
Cher Wang said she keeps her life simple. On her 50th birthday last month, she stayed home and ate strawberry ice cream cake with her family. Despite her status as a member of technology’s billionaire club, she eschews being ferried by private jet from her offices in Taipei to Silicon Valley. And instead of taking buA South African doctor removes a bandage from the breast of a British patient who had plastic surgery in Johannesburg last Sunday. A growing number of foreign tourists are visiting South Africa for a little nip and tuck at the country’s private hospitals, followed by a relaxing recuperation.PHOTO: AFPsiness associates out for a lavish dinner, she invites them to an early morning basketball game.
Stephen Zelencik, a retired head of sales and marketing for Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), has known Cher Wang since she was a young executive working for First International Computer. But in his encounters with her at HTC, he learned how relentless she could be.
He recalled a particular exhausting negotiation, lasting more than a week in Taipei, when Cher Wang was holding out for a lower price on a large order of microprocessors HTC wanted to buy from AMD.
The two had loosely agreed on a price. But Cher Wang, sensing an opportunity on the last day, told him she wanted a lower price, tapped her watch and pointed out his plane was leaving at 2pm.
“She wanted me to relent,” he said.
Zelencik said he replied: “‘We don’t have to catch the plane.’ Then she said, ‘OK, we’ll negotiate.’”
Ultimately, the two agreed to keep the deal as is.
“It was negotiated in her favor,” he said. “But she would always give it one more try.”
Faith plays an important part in her life. A Christian (like her husband), she said she belongs to no specific denomination but attends church whenever she can.
She shuttles mostly among three cities: a home in Mountain View, California, a house in Taipei and an apartment in Beijing, which is used mostly for business. While Cher Wang has stepped away from much of the running of HTC, she is still active in the company by meeting clients and negotiating deals. And she remains an arbiter of HTC’s style, a role she relishes.
“I always have this imagination, something I want to use,” she said. “I don’t understand the idea of leisure time.”
‘NO EQUILIBRIUM’: Taiwan’s increased defense spending is a good step, but it needs to do more to have the ability to deter aggression from China, a senior US official said The US plans to sell as many as seven major weapons systems — including mines, cruise missiles and drones — to Taiwan, four people familiar with the discussions said. Pursuing seven sales at once is a rare departure from years of precedent in which US military sales to Taiwan were spaced out and carefully calibrated to minimize tensions with Beijing. However, US President Donald Trump’s administration has this year become more aggressive with China, and the sales would land as relations between Beijing and Washington are at their lowest point in decades over accusations of spying, lingering trade tensions, disputes about the
ON THEIR OWN: The KMT has decided not to participate as a party at this year’s forum, and if any members do go, they would not be representing the party, Alicia Wang said The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) yesterday announced that it would not send a delegation “as a political party” to this year’s Straits Forum, after a Chinese TV program described the planned visit to the annual meeting as “suing for peace.” The 12th forum is scheduled to open in Xiamen, China, on Saturday. On Tuesday last week, the KMT announced that former legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) would lead the party’s delegation to the forum, with KMT Secretary-General Lee Chien-lung (李乾龍) as deputy head. However, on Thursday last week, China Central Television’s (CCTV) Yangshipin (央視頻) program, hosted by Li Hong (李紅), included a headline
RIVERSIDE CAMP: As rescuers continued their search for a missing man, Taipower said that the floodgates at a hydro plant on the Lishi Creek opened due to a malfunction Three people have been confirmed dead and one was missing after being swept away by a flash flood while camping in Nantou County’s Renai Township (仁愛), police said yesterday. Six people from two families were camping near Lishi Creek (栗栖溪) when the riverbanks were suddenly flooded just after 4am, carrying away four of the campers — including two children — who were asleep in their tents, police said. A man who was among those swept away was able to climb ashore and call for help, police said, adding that another man had gone missing in the turmoil at the campsite.
WORKING OVERTIME? NTU professor Lee Duu-jong denied that he had held a part-time position at a Chinese university or joined China’s Thousand Talents Program A candidate for the post of National Taiwan University of Science and Technology (NTUST) president yesterday dropped out of the race following a report questioning his links to Chinese academia and government programs. Lee Duu-jong (李篤中), a professor at National Taiwan University’s (NTU) chemical engineering department, was a member of China’s Changjiang Scholars’ Program in 2006 and was on the list of its Thousand Talents Program in 2017, a report by Chinese-language Mirror Media magazine said yesterday. The article said that Lee is suspected of having held a part-time job at the Harbin Institute of Technology in China and was the recipient