Back in the early days of Legend's struggle to become China's leading PC manufacturer, co-founder Liu Chuanzhi repeatedly found himself cheated by middlemen. On one occasion in 1987, an agent in Shenzhen disappeared with $1 million without delivering Legend's order for foreign PCs. The man was found, and Legend got its money back, but the incident caused Liu to awaken at 2 a.m. every morning for a month with the recurring nightmare that his money was gone. "I was in a sweat because of the scare," recalls Liu, 56, who spent several weeks in the hospital to recover from stress and fatigue after that incident and others like it.
Liu no longer has such worries. In the 13 years since, he has built Legend into one of China's first internationally renowned companies. With sales of $2.2 billion and profits of $62 million last year, Legend is by far the leading PC manufacturer in China. Liu, who as a child in Shanghai and Beijing dreamed of becoming a fighter pilot, outmaneuvered such rivals as Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and Compaq in the quest for market share, and now commands 21.5% of China's domestic market.
Liu originally worked as a computer engineer and founded Legend with 10 scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 1984, turning their professional research to commercial use. Over the years, he introduced an extensive stock-options program and pushed young talent into higher management.
With margins in PCs narrowing, Liu isn't resting. He is busy moving Legend into Internet plays in portals and e-commerce. But as he passes day-to-day control on to deputies, he is planning to focus more on the big picture. "My role will be switched from a film director to a producer," says Liu. "I want to focus more on finding venture capital and nurturing young talent." And on sleeping peacefully.