A Born Gambler Plays His Chips Right

UMC's Robert Tsao is well-positioned for a market upturn

Robert Tsao faced his share of skeptics when he set out to transform United Microelectronics Corp. four years ago. Having launched UMC as a designer and producer of integrated circuits in 1980, he wanted to make it a foundry, or contract manufacturer that turns out chips from other companies' designs. Doubters said he was too ambitious. But Tsao had a hugely successful predecessor: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., Taiwan's largest chipmaker and the industry's first foundry. "I felt the foundry model would be more competitive," Tsao says today. "As for TSMC, we watch each other very closely now."

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