As if he didn't have enough to do as chief of one of Taiwan's biggest chipmakers, Miin Wu has recently taken on a new job. An avid bridge player, the president and founder of Macronix International (MXICY) has become chairman of the Taiwan bridge association. For Wu, the card game is serious business because it teaches the sort of skills that come in handy when running an electronics company. "Bridge is important in creating a team concept, and high technology is a team business," he explains.
By all accounts, Wu operates his high-technology business like a master card player. His biggest customer is Japan's Nintendo (NTDOY), which is challenging Sony Corp.'s (SNE) dominance in the lucrative video-game business. Nintendo hopes its new Gamecube--powered in part by Macronix memory and logic chips--can steal the thunder from Sony's Playstation 2, while also besting Microsoft's new contender, the Xbox.
Wu landed his first Nintendo contracts in 1991, a coup for a Taiwanese company. Nintendo "was very conservative and used only Japanese suppliers," recalls Wu. Sales to the Japanese company have grown to about one-third of Macronix' overall revenue. Thanks to the Nintendo connection, Macronix enjoyed record profits last year of $312 million, an elevenfold increase from the previous year, on sales of $950 million.
At 52, Wu is one of the youngest of a group of Taiwan semiconductor pioneers. Having worked for 14 years in the U.S. at companies such as Intel and Rockwell International, the Stanford University graduate returned to Taiwan in 1989 and started Macronix with a team of 100 people, most of them fellow Taiwanese he persuaded to come back with him. His goal was to build a company that created products of its own rather than simply manufacturing for others. "Taiwan had the opportunity, the money, and the manufacturing capability but not the product capability," he says. Wu's own company is leading the way in bridging that gap.