HTC Chairwoman Cher Wang Takes Over CEO Role From Peter Chou

HTC Chairwoman Cher Wang
Cher Wang, co-founder and chairwoman of HTC Corp., gestures whilst speaking during a news conference ahead of the Mobile World Congress 2015 in Barcelona on March 1, 2015. Photographer: Pau Barrena/Bloomberg

HTC Corp. Chairwoman Cher Wang replaced Peter Chou as chief executive officer after three years of declining sales at the Taiwanese smartphone maker.

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

Chou, 58, presided over HTC’s rise to the top of the U.S. smartphone rankings, the settling of a patent dispute with Apple Inc. and the purchase and sale of Beats Electronics. His reign also saw the stock drop and market share shrink as HTC suffered at the hands of cheaper models from Xiaomi Corp. and the broader lineup of Samsung Electronics Co.

“Peter had done poorly, but even with Cher’s return it will be difficult for HTC to turn things around,” said Jeff Pu, who rates the stock sell at Yuanta Financial Holding Co. “Her appointment may also imply that it’s difficult to find a fresh leader from outside.”

The shares were unchanged today in Taiwan trading and have declined 0.4 percent this year, compared with the 4.8 percent gain on the benchmark Taiex index.

Chou, who also held the title of president, will take a new role as head of the HTC Future Development Lab, HTC said. He has been with the Taoyuan-based company since its founding 18 years ago and was promoted to president in 2004. His replacement comes after at least seven senior executives quit the company under his tenure, which included four different chief marketing officers.

First Android

Chou steered HTC, initially a contract manufacturer for global brands including Compaq Computer and T-Mobile US Inc., toward creating its own label. He also encouraged Android founder Andy Rubin to continue developing the smartphone platform that was later bought by Google Inc.

In 2008, HTC became the first smartphone maker to offer devices using the operating system when it released HTC Dream.

The company’s peak came in the third quarter of 2011, when it overtook Apple to become the largest smartphone vendor in the U.S. by shipments. Its stock has fallen more than 85 percent since then, with annual revenue dropping 60 percent.

HTC reported its first annual loss in 2013 and is outside the top-10 global smartphone rankings with less than 2.9 percent global share, according to IDC data compiled by Bloomberg Intelligence.

Challenging Years

As market share and revenue slid, founder Wang returned to daily operations two years ago, taking an active role in customer service, marketing and personnel.

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

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.

HTC posted its first quarterly revenue growth in more than three years in January as new mid-range devices helped offset competition from the new iPhone 6 models. The company posted an operating profit of about NT$180 million for the quarter, compared with analysts’ estimates for a loss of NT$30.4 million.

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