Foxconn mogul cedes control of tech giant

Taiwan's richest man Terry Gou has been at the helm of Foxconn for more than four decades.
Taiwan's richest man Terry Gou has been at the helm of Foxconn for more than four decades.

Terry Gou aiming to be KMT's nominee for Taiwan president

TAIPEI • Taiwan's richest man Terry Gou yesterday said he would cede control of tech giant Foxconn to a committee, leaving the Apple supplier in uncharted waters while he runs for president.

Billionaire Gou has been at the helm of Foxconn, the world's largest electronics assembler, for more than four decades but has set his sights on becoming Taiwan's next president.

Those political aspirations come at a sensitive time for a company that is acutely vulnerable to the US-China trade war.

Taiwan goes to the polls in January, with the contest set to be dominated by relations with China.

Mr Gou - whose company is China's largest private employer - is seeking to run on the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) ticket, although he still has to win its nomination.

As that contest intensifies, Mr Gou announced plans to hand the reins at Foxconn to a nine-member committee of trusted lieutenants.

"For the past 40 years of my life, I was like a bull and I fought for Hon Hai," Mr Gou said at a shareholder meeting yesterday, using Foxconn's official name.

"Now I am letting go of Hon Hai," he said, adding he is now going to "fight for the future of Taiwan".

Foxconn assembles gadgets for major brands, including Apple and Huawei.

Most of Mr Gou's investments are in China; he employs more than one million workers in the country where cheap labour helped fuel his company's meteoric rise.

 

His foray into politics began in April, when he announced that the sea goddess Matsu had encouraged him to run for the presidency.

His chief challenger within the KMT is Mr Han Kuo-yu, a populist local mayor and political outsider who has drawn huge rallies of supporters in recent months.

The KMT primary is expected to be announced in mid-July.

Whoever wins will be up against President Tsai Ing-wen, who is seeking a second term. She hails from the more anti-China Democratic Progressive Party.

Since Ms Tsai's 2016 election, Beijing has cut communication with her government, ramped up military drills and poached several of Taiwan's dwindling diplomatic allies because she refuses to acknowledge the self-ruled island is part of "one China".

Mr Gou and Mr Han have spoken of wanting to reset ties with Beijing.

Critics accuse both men of being too close to China's leaders while Mr Gou's huge investments there have raised fears of a conflict of interest.

In a statement to the stock exchange, Foxconn said that Mr Liu Yang-wei, who previously led the semiconductor unit, is the new chairman.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2019, with the headline 'Foxconn mogul cedes control of tech giant'. Print Edition | Subscribe