Taiwan’s richest man Terry Gou said on Friday he would cede control of his company Foxconn to a committee, leaving the Apple-supplier tech behemoth in uncharted waters while he runs for president, reports BSS/AFP.
Gou has been at the helm of Foxconn, the world’s largest electronics assembler, for more than four decades but has set his sights on becoming Taiwan’s next president.
The island goes to the polls in January, with the contest set to be dominated by relations with China.
Gou — whose company is China’s largest private employer — is seeking to run as presidential candidate for the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) although he still has to win a party primary.
As that contest intensifies, Gou announced plans to hand the reins at Foxconn to a nine-member committee of trusted lieutenants.
“I have decided to fade out of Hon Hai and it’s been decided that the company’s operations will be handed over to the nine-member team in the operations committee,” Gou said at the start of a shareholder meeting, using Foxconn’s official name. “I have a lot of confidence in them. I think every shareholder can rest assured that they can do better than me,” he added.
Also known by its official name Hon Hai Precision Industry, Foxconn is the world’s largest contract electronics maker and assembles gadgets for major international brands including Apple and Huawei.
The bulk of Gou’s investments are in China, employing more than one million workers in the country where cheap labour helped fuel his company’s meteoric rise.
His foray into politics came in April, when he announced that the sea goddess Matsu had encouraged him to run for the presidency.
His chief challenger within the KMT is Han Kuo-yu, a populist local mayor and political outsider who has drawn huge rallies of supporters in recent months.
The KMT primary is expected to be announced in mid-July.
Whoever wins will be up against President Tsai Ing-wen, who is looking to win a second term. She hails from the much more Beijing-sceptical Democratic Progressive Party.
Since Tsai’s 2016 election, Beijing has cut communication with her government, ramped up military drills and poached several of Taiwan’s dwindling diplomatic allies because Tsai refuses to acknowledge that the self-ruled island is part of “one China”.
Both Gou and Han have spoken of wanting to reset ties with Beijing. Critics accuse both of being too close to China’s leaders while Gou’s huge investments in the mainland have raised fears of a conflict of interest.