Motorola elects to join non-IT boardroom trend

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 August, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 August, 1997, 12:00am


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The newest member of the board of high-technology conglomerate Motorola might appear to be a counter-intuitive choice.

Ronnie Chan, chairman of Hong Kong property developer Hang Lung Development and one of the world's richest men, was elected to Motorola's board last week.

The heir to the family business, Mr Chan has helped increase Hang Lung's total worth to $52 billion through projects such as the Peak Galleria and the Amoy Plaza. In the process, Mr Chan has accumulated a personal wealth of at least US$800 million, though he told Forbes magazine he does not believe in inherited wealth. 'It's the best way to poison your family. I told my kids early on - you're not going to get a dime.' Some technology firms recently have come under fire for recruiting high-profile but non-IT executives as board members.

Part of Apple Computer's troubles, for example, have been blamed on a weak board, with many of its members having little or no stock in the company nor being part of the industry.

The recent resignation of Delano Lewis, a public radio executive, has created four board spots at the company. Co-founder Steve Jobs, who reportedly has been considered for the chairman's position, has been courting industry leaders such as Larry Ellison and John Warnock, Adobe's CEO, to join Apple's board.

But Motorola's board, which already includes a former member of the Federal Communications Commission, the United States' main telecommunications regulator, and technology guru Nicholas Negroponte, does not suffer from the same criticism.

'[Mr Chan] is well thought of not only for his business achievements and integrity, but also because he is truly an international business person,' said Gary Tooker, chairman of Motorola, the world's largest maker of cellular phones.

'His global activities and perspective complement Motorola's business interests precisely.' Mr Chan shows a keen interest in the importance of technology, especially in developing Asian economies. But he admits that America's technological lead means 'the West will be calling the shots' for a long time yet.

Mr Chan chairs the Hong Kong-US Economic Co-operation Committee.