Ex-TSMC exec appointed MediaTek co-CEO

By Christine Chou, The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The board of directors of MediaTek Inc. (聯發科), Taiwan’s leading chip supplier for Chinese smartphones, agreed Wednesday to recruit Rick Tsai (蔡力行), a former CEO Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC, 台積電), to join the firm as co-chief executive officer and company board member. Tsai’s appointment will take effect on July 1, stated MediaTek. Last year, the former TSMC chief and Chunghwa Telecom (中華電信) chairman was rumored to be joining mainland-Chinese semiconductor giant Tsinghua Unigroup (紫光集團). Tsai denied the speculations. TSMC is the world’s largest contract chipmaker and a key supplier for Apple’s iPhones. It has also been a major production partner of MediaTek’s. Company chairman Tsai Ming-kai (蔡明介) said they have decided to recruit Rick Tsai onboard MediaTek to plan the mid- to long term strategy blueprint with him, helping the company become a world-class company of excellence.

The chairman pointed to Tsai’s expertise in the semiconductor and telecommunications sectors, as well as his experience managing diverse, international companies. “He has also served on the board of directors on many multinational corporations, and his appointment will definitely support our company’s operations greatly,” added Tsai. “We hope that under the leadership of Tsai, Hsieh and the new co-CEO, MediaTek will continue to hold a competitive advantage in wireless, digital IC design, power management products, internet of things and automotive electronics, and allow MediaTek Group to become a leader in the smart connected devices industry,” said the company.

MediaTek’s profit margins in mainland China have been significantly eroded in recent years due to rising competition from U.S. rival Qualcomm and Spreadtrum Communications, owned by mainland China’s state-backed Tsinghua Unigroup.

MediaTek generated record revenue of NT$275.51 billion (US$8.98 billion) last year, but the company’s net profit dropped 8.7 percent to NT$23.7 billion. Its gross margin for the October-December period dropped to a record low of 34.5 percent, from 38.5 percent a year earlier. Tsai has a bachelor’s degree in physics from National Taiwan University and a doctorate degree in materials science and engineering from Cornell University in the U.S.

He began his career at Hewlett-Packard and joined TSMC in 1989, moving through the ranks at the Taiwanese chip company, becoming the CEO and chairman at TSMC subsidiaries TSMC Solar (台積太陽能) and TSMC Solid State Lighting (台積固態照明) in 2011. He later served as the chair and CEO of Chunghwa Telecom from 2014 to 2016.