Insiders blame Peter Chou for HTC’s situation – Reuters profile

August 21, 2013
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A Reuters profile based on insight from several former and current HTC executives portraits the company’s longtime CEO in a negative light.

HTC CEO Peter Chou Credit: HTC

Peter Chou’s name is almost inseparable from the company he helped turn from a small time contract manufacturer into a luminary of the smartphone industry. And yet, Chou’s ten-year tenure as CEO of HTC is called into question, after the company’s fortunes have plummeted in the last years.

HTC is about to register its first ever quarterly loss. Its stock has been free-falling, and more and more voices call for the company to consider an acquisition by a better-off competitor.

Who’s to blame for HTC’s fall from glory? Peter Chou, say unequivocally several former and current company executives whom Reuters interviewed. While most admit that Chou is “the heart of the company”, critics say that his lack of long-term vision and authoritarian management style have hamstrung HTC.

Reuters recounts an illustrative episode for Chou’s style of leadership:

Chou quickly drew some sketches on a whiteboard, recalled one of those present, and soon had the outlines of a device, its price point, and a launch date - just three months away. Most manufacturers would need up to 18 months for a similar project, yet the Sensation XL appeared on schedule, and to rave reviews.

Insiders said that Chou’s “shoot-from-the-hip” approach to product design and management has served HTC well back in its early years, but the current industry landscape requires a more prudent approach and deeper strategic thinking.

HTC encountered problems manufacturing One, which arrived late in several major markets, reportedly due to the company’s inability to secure the needed components in advance. At the time, it was revealed that HTC had been snubbed by suppliers because the company no longer had the clout of a big manufacturer.

Another problem that Peter Chou’s critics raised was his “abrasive” style of leadership:

Executives say HTC's failure to hit sales targets was at least partly down to Chou's management style. After hiring a slew of foreign executives, he fell short on promises to senior staff to foster a more open culture and cede sufficient authority. He openly berated managers and overrode their decisions, often with little discussion

Many of the foreign execs that HTC had brought onboard left the company at the beginning of the year, some of them publicly criticizing the company. Now the “old guard” is back in charge, which has reportedly eased the internal tensions somehow, at the cost of losing the international perspective offered by foreign executives.

According to the profile, Chou isn’t willing to relinquish the reins at HTC, and the company doesn’t even have an apparent successor lined up, which is reportedly another cause of weak morale.

Check out the full profile for the rest of the details.

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