The founder of Foxconn, whose biggest customer, Apple, helped it rise to be the world’s top contract electronics manufacturer, says he plans to step aside to allow a younger executive to take over.
CEO Terry Gou did not give a timeline when he confirmed to a Reuters reporter his plans to resign from the Taiwan-based company he started with a loan from his mom around the same time Steve Jobs launched Apple.
“I don’t know where you got the information from,” Gou, 69, told Reuters at an event in Taipei. “But I have to say, basically, I’m working toward that direction – to walk back to the second line, or retire.”
What Gou’s departure would mean to Apple or for Foxconn’s shifting plans for a Wisconsin manufacturing campus remains unclear.
After securing billions in tax incentives with promises of employing thousands to build advanced liquid crystal display panels, the company scaled back and left Wisconsin communities with empty buildings and a lot of unanswered questions.
When a Gou spokesman told Reuters in January it could not afford to build the screens in the United States, Gou recommitted to a factory after a call from President Donald Trump.
Terry Gou, Foxconn and Apple
Apple had worked with Foxconn for parts production in Apple’s earlier years but formed stronger ties in 2000 when it began assembling the colorful iMacs. Gou’s Foxconn Technology Group adapted to Apple’s high quality and design standards, perfecting the process to anodize the surface of the metal on the iPhone, according to a story by Nikkei Asian Review.
The partnership furthered each company’s development.
While Apple could rely on Foxconn to keep production costs down, the conditions at some of its factories took a heavy toll on its Chinese workforce.
Shifts were 12 and 14 hours long in a work culture that was tedious and militaristic, according to Cult of Mac publisher Leander Kahney, whose new book on Apple CEO Tim Cook debuted this week.
Some 14 workers between 2007 and 2010 jumped to their deaths at Foxconn facilities. Workers and families of the dead reported employees working triple the overtime limit.
Gou was criticized for what was considered a callous repospone but Apple reportedly made several changes to ensure healthier conditions.
Shares of Foxconn closed today 3.2 percent higher, according to Reuters. Foxconn’s market value is around $40 billion.
Gou will continue to offer guidance on company direction after stepping away from daily operations. He said he still has to talk to the company’s Board of Directors before setting a departure date.
“I’m already 69 years old,” Gou said. “I can pass down my 45 years of experience. That’s the goal I set up, to let young people learn sooner and take over sooner and to replace my position sooner.”