Cher Wang, the scion of one of Taiwan’s most prominent business dynasties, has stepped down as CEO of HTC. She will continue to lead the company’s board of directors as chairperson.
Wang’s replacement Yves Maitre, a former executive vice president of the French telecom operator Orange, will be tasked with reviving the sales of HTC’s product line-up that includes virtual reality gear and, some believe, smartphones designed for 5G wireless systems.
During the past four years with Wang at the helm, HTC laid off 1,500 of its employees and another 2,000 left when HTC sold its design team to Google for $1.1 billion. Its share of the global smartphone market peaked at 10.7% in 2011, but has since fallen to less than 1%, according to tech research firm IDC. The company reported a loss of $72 million in the second quarter of this year.
Wang and her husband Wenchi Chen were once ranked the wealthiest family in Taiwan with a fortune estimated at $8.8 billion in 2011, but the couple dropped out of the rankings in 2017. Wang’s father, the late Wang Yung-Ching, was chairman of Taiwanese conglomerate Formosa Plastics Group.
Wang, who cofounded HTC back in 1997, had set out to rescue the smartphone company against Android competitors such as Samsung, Huawei and other brands, many with stronger sales and marketing strategies, analysts have said over the years. She came in with a reputation for pushing innovative tech at HTC as well at her other firm the chipset maker VIA Technologies, says John Brebeck, senior advisor at Quantum International Corp., an investment consultancy in Taiwan.
New CEO comes with expertise in Europe and 5G
Maitre’s former senior position in the European telecom firm could give him access or insights to selling HTC handsets in Europe via wireless providers, says C.K. Lu, senior director analyst with market research firm Gartner in Taipei. Orange covers much of Europe, and Maitre had gone on record in the past evaluating partnerships with outside vendors. Maitre’s appointment “might mean HTC wants to do carrier business in Europe,” Lu says.
Maitre, formally Orange’s EVP of consumer equipment and partnerships, knows about “deployment of the world’s largest consumer electronic brands as well as ownership of an entire portfolio of connected and mobile services,” HTC says in a statement on September 17.
The new CEO’s time at Orange would also leave him well positioned to strengthen HTC’s efforts at developing 5G, the next wireless protocol upgrade for smartphones and other devices. “He could help HTC to deepen its 5G strategy, for example to develop a competitive 5G smartphone portfolio, and improve HTC’s performance in 5G countries as Western Europe as well as focus on developing countries as India to seize the future opportunities there,” says Mo Jia, analyst with the market research firm Canalys.
HTC’s statement announcing the change in leadership quotes Wang as saying 5G technology was part of her plan all along. The new protocol will work especially well for virtual reality gaming, a booming part of HTC’s business, Brebeck notes. HTC’s VIVE-branded gear ranked as the most popular head-mounted display device among VR tools for three consecutive years through 2018. Electronic gaming overall will make up a $152.1 billion industry this year, according to Newzoo, a market research firm.
Wang not giving up on HTC
HTC says Wang intends to explore “future technologies” linked to VIVE head and hand gear for gamers. This pursuit will advance her goal of turning HTC into what she calls a “complete ecosystem company.”