NEW TAIPEI, Taiwan – Foxconn's Terry Gou, after 45 years of operating the tech empire he founded, said goodbye to shareholders and employees Friday morning in his final official appearance as the company's leader.
As a 69-year-old tycoon, the company handed over to the nine-person committee that would replace him, Gou assured the over 1[ads1],000 shareholders and employees who were present at the general meeting that they were in good hands. "I believe in them. They will do better than me," said Gou, as he gave the microphone to new board member Lu Fang-ming and left the room.
Gou has declared a bid for the opposition Kuomintang nomination to run in Taiwan's presidential election, and he will spend the next few weeks on the campaign track.
The Foxconn boss will be succeeded as leader of semiconductor company leader Young Liu, who was widely expected to take up the position.
Gou's influence will still be felt while still in the board and the largest shareholder. "It is worth noting that the members of the nine-person committee are all leaders that Gou has and are close to," an insider said. "He can always call them to get the latest company updates."
While the tech tycoon's outrageous form of government cannot be missed by anyone at Foxconn, his affiliation with the company is so strong for most of his employees and senior executives that it is difficult to imagine the company without him.
"I don't do not like our boss, but I want to be there to give him goodbye," said one employee, one of nearly a million Foxconn group workers worldwide.
Gous's military style overthrew Foxconn through the disruptions of the Asian financial crisis in 1997 and the global panic in 2008. A slate of workers' suicide in 2010 put an unpleasant spotlight on the work environment at the company's growing factory in Shenzhen, China. Now, his resignation to pursue the policy comes as Foxconn faces another challenging moment.
Despite logging record-high revenue in 2018, Foxconn saw its net profit for the second consecutive year due to the decline in iPhone sales at Apple, the largest customer. China's Huawei Technologies, one of the five fastest-growing clients, was put under a de facto ban by the Trump administration from using US technology during the long-standing US-China trade war.
Gou founded the company in 1974 in the suburbs of New Taipei City with $ 200,000 New Taiwan Dollars ($ 6,465 in current prices) of initial funds from his mother. In his early days as an entrepreneur, Gou often took only two sticky rice balls for his daily meal and rescued his old scooter to deliver products.
"One day when he saved the scooter, he had a car accident," and Foxconn Executive said the Nikkei Asian Review. "But instead of going to the hospital, he rushed to deposit money before the bank closed, so his checks could be paid."
"He was covered in wounds and dirt, but he chose not to go home and instead went to his factory to be bandaged and slept there overnight, so his wife would not worry about being injured," said the CEO. "I really don't see anyone who could work as mad as he did."
Foxconn, acting as the Hon Hai Precision Industry, has grown into a manufacturing empire, generating annual sales of NT $ 5.3 trillion operating factories in 16 countries.
The group is one of the world's five largest employers by number of employees and China's largest employer. The market value has been ballooned 100 times to more than NT $ 1 trillion since it was listed in 1991 on the Taiwan Stock Exchange. Gou has become Taiwan's richest person, with a net worth of $ 7.3 billion, according to Forbes.
For 45 years, the company was under a virtual one-man rule. Many older Foxconn executives have experience of being quiet for several hours before the famous short-lived Gou to make small mistakes.
"The first rule to work on the presidency is to wear a pair of shoes with thicker soles. I had the experience of standing in his office for hours, so my legs went completely numb, said a leader.  "We have become accustomed to asking questions when he demands that we do something. No one can stop him when he is determined to achieve something, another director said.
Gous's CEO will be handled by a 9-person operating committee, with his successor leading the company expected to be Foxconn Semiconductor Young Liu. Last week, the company held its first investor conference to introduce new directors. But analysts believe Gou will retain significant influence over the company after he has declined.
"The key message Foxconn wants to deliver on the investor events is to insure shareholders, especially foreign investors who hold a large part of Foxconn, that the company will be in good hands without Gou being chairman," Chung Hsi- May, a professor in business administration at I-Shou University, Nikkei told. Foreign investors account for more than 40% of Foxcon's shareholding, stock exchange show.
"The introduction of the success plan and 9-person operating committee are features Foxconn enters into the after-Terry Gou era, but we believe Gou is still key influence for the company," said Chiu Shih Fang, a smartphone and supply chain analyst at the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research "The fact that he avoids talking about Foxconn during his campaign, but constant comments on the US and China trade war, suggests that he really cares about how this development can affect the company," added the analyst.
I-Shou University's Chung said, "There is no way for Terry Gou to go down so fast … It's more like he takes the back seat but will still monitor the company's strategy."
"There is no difference to us if Young [Liu] is the chairman or whatever setup of the operating committee is, because we all know that there is only one BB [big boss] and that is Terry, "said one source in Foxconn.