Foxconn founder Terry Gou (C) poses for photographs with supporters after an investors conference in Tucheng district, New Taipei City on Friday. Sam Yeh/ AFP
Taiwan’s richest man Terry Gou said on Friday he would cede control of tech giant Foxconn to a committee, leaving the Apple-supplier in uncharted waters while he runs for president.
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.
Gou — whose company is China’s largest private employer — is seeking to run for the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) although he still has to win his party’s nomination.
As that contest intensifies, Gou announced plans to hand the reins at Foxconn to a nine-member committee of trusted lieutenants.
“I have decided to fade out of Hon Hai and it’s been decided that the company’s operations will be handed over to the nine-member team in the operations committee,” Gou said at the start of a shareholder meeting, using Foxconn’s official name.
“I have a lot of confidence in them. I think every shareholder can rest assured that they can do better than me,” he added.
Foxconn is the world’s largest contract electronics maker and assembles gadgets for major international brands including Apple and Huawei.
The bulk of Gou’s investments are in China, employing more than one million workers in the country where cheap labour helped fuel his company’s meteoric rise.
Nod from a goddess
His foray into politics came 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 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 running for a second term. She hails from the much more anti-Chinese Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
Since 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 Tsai refuses to acknowledge that the self-ruled island is part of “one China.”
Both Gou and Han have spoken of wanting to reset ties with Beijing. Critics accuse both of being too close to China’s leaders while Gou’s huge investments in the mainland have raised fears of a conflict of interest.
Because so much of Foxconn’s electronics are assembled in China, the company faces the speartip of ramped up tariffs caused by Washington and Beijing’s trade war.
In recent years under Gou, Foxconn has gone on a buying spree, snapping up investments from Japan to India in a bid to diversify from electronics assembly.
But the bulk of his investments remain in China.
Gou has boasted of his White House connections and has met Donald Trump repeatedly.
Foxconn has vowed to build a $10 billion display screen factory in Wisconsin, creating 13,000 jobs, with Trump and Gou breaking ground together at a ceremony two years ago.
But the project has since been hit by uncertainty over how many jobs will really be created and the huge tax breaks offered to Foxconn.
The company has said plans for the Wisconsin facilities are going ahead as scheduled with mass production set for late 2020.
Gou’s rags-to-riches tale is legendary in Taiwan and mimics the island’s phenomenal economic success over recent decades.
He was born in 1950 in Taipei to parents who had fled the Communist victory in China’s civil war. He studied shipping management in college while supporting himself with part-time jobs.
He started his business in 1974 making television parts with an investment of Tw$100,000 ($3,250 at current exchange rates) from his mother, and later began producing computer parts — eventually growing to become the world’s biggest contract electronics maker.
A Taiwanese artist has created giant inflatables of a tank and "tank man" - the lone protester who stood in front of a convoy of tanks on Beijing's Tiananmen Square - to mark 30 years since China's bloody crackdown on the pro-democracy movement.
From a modern summer villa with an outdoor pool to a fully equipped film studio or a casino, paper model makers in Taiwan are ensuring the dead enjoy an eternity of luxury.
Taiwan’s export orders fell for the fifth straight month in March, and at a much sharper pace than expected, as the island’s manufacturers kept struggling with a drop in global tech demand. Orders in March dropped 9 per cent from a year earlier to $38.59 billion, Ministry of Economic Affairs data showed on Monday.
George Papadopoulos, the first Trump campaign aide charged in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, disavowed his guilty plea in a book released on Tuesday, claiming he was unfairly pressured into cutting a deal.
Dr Anwar Bin Mohammed Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, has affirmed the importance of continuing the global fight against Daesh and establishing sustainable partnerships to unite against challenges the world faces.
Brazil has reported more than 34,000 deaths from the virus so far, meaning it surpassed the amount in Italy and trails only the UK and US Experts consider the tally a significant undercount due to insufficient testing.
The city-state has already developed the first-of-its-kind smartphone app to identify and alert people who have interacted with novel coronavirus carriers, but the bluetooth technology has been beset with glitches and the app is not widely used.
Floyd's death last week after a fatal encounter with a police officer has led to nationwide protests. In widely circulated video footage, a white officer was seen kneeling on Floyd's neck as Floyd gasped for air and repeatedly groaned, "I can't breathe," before passing out.