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HTC brings back Taiwan Tycoon as CEO to bail out the struggling smartphone maker

Cher Wang has regained the CEO position at HTC, the struggling smartphone maker she co-founded that has suffered huge financial losses in recent years.

Wang replaced Yves Maitre, former executive vice president of French telecom company Orange. Maitre was brought in last year to revive sales of smartphones and virtual reality gear as 5G technology begins to mature. HTC said in a legal notice to the Taiwan Stock Exchange that he resigned on Sept. 2 because Covid-19 travel restrictions made it difficult to “take care of work and family at the same time.”

The exchange notice said Wang would serve as CEO as well as chairman of the board. The company’s share price has risen about 3% since the announcement.

The returning executive co-founded HTC in 1997. During her four years as CEO before Maitre took over, she tried to salvage the smartphone business against Android rivals like Samsung and Huawei, analysts said. A lot of competitors had stronger sales and marketing strategies. During the same four years, HTC laid off 1,500 employees and another 2,000 left when HTC sold its design team to Google for $1.1 billion.

The global phone market was really competitive at the time, says Brady Wang, an analyst with Counterpoint Research in Taiwan.

HTC’s market share for phones peaked at 10.7% in 2011, but has since fallen to less than 1%, according to tech research firm IDC. The company has reported a decline in revenue each year since 2011 and a net loss for 2019 of NT$9.4 billion (US$320 million).

The analyst says it’s hard to see why HTC’s virtual reality and augmented reality devices haven’t gained more market share. Competitor hood Sony captured 36.7% of the global market last year, followed by Facebook Oculus with 28.2% and HTC Vive in third place with 13.3%. Oculus gained share during 2018 while HTC held steady.

After Maitre’s departure, the analyst says, “Our conclusion is that (HTC) will find another professional leader in the future.”

Wang, 61, and her husband, Wenshi Chen, were ranked as the richest family in Taiwan with an estimated fortune of $8.8 billion in 2011, but the couple dropped out of the ranking in 2017. Wang’s father, the late Wang Yongqing, was the chairman of Taiwanese conglomerate Formosa Plastics Group .